The Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future holds today its final public meeting before issuing draft recommendations for managing used nuclear fuel. One of their major considerations in shaping the policy of our energy future will be to decide whether to strategically view the 60,000 metric tons (plus 2,000 metric tons annually) of used U.S. nuclear fuel as waste, or as a significant recyclable energy resource, and whether that resource is commercially viable.
As an experienced, successful provider of used nuclear fuel recycling, we issued a white paper today detailing our perspective, as summed up in this statement by David Jones, senior vice president of AREVA Inc.:
“Recycling is a proven solution that conserves natural resources, simplifies waste management and is cost competitive. We must think beyond just temporary storage and permanent disposal – recycling is an essential part of building a more sustainable fuel cycle.”
Outlined in the document is a suggested U.S. used fuel recycling program that includes:
- Implementation of an enhanced COEX™ (Coextraction) process where no pure plutonium is separated anywhere in the facility.
- Co-location of treatment and fuel fabrication plants to avoid transportation of intermediate nuclear material outside of the facilities.
- Overall enhanced protection systems and design approaches.
- Flexibility in design to allow deployment of advanced separations processes, when such processes are developed and commercially industrialized, supporting fully closing the fuel cycle.
As our white paper concludes:
“It is crucial that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission continue developing a regulatory framework for deploying commercial recycling facilities. Congress and the Administration must likewise chart a strategic course for sustainable fuel cycle management. This national policy commitment must recognize used nuclear fuel as a resource, not a waste, and facilitate the consolidation and recycling of this resource, continue R&D, and develop a national repository. Executing this policy requires an entity, such as a Federal Corporation (FedCorp), that it is broadly chartered, appropriately capitalized, insulated from political volatility, and capable of sustaining long-term projects.”
Read the full document (PDF link) and let us know your thoughts in the comments.