During an interview on NPR today, “Chu Hopes Kids Will Encourage Families to Go Green,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu shared about energy and increasing efficiency in the United States. The title of the six minute segment may be somewhat incomplete as the conversation also focused on the context for nuclear energy in the United States following the ongoing events in Japan, “…Green and Clean” would have been better.
When asked about what the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi reactor means for nuclear energy in the United States, Sec. Chu replied, “I still believe that nuclear power should be part of the energy mix of the 21st century.” He stressed how the many important lessons learned from Japan will be integrated into U.S. reactors, adopted by the industry, and that new nuclear power plants will be even safer.
The interview also hit upon the approach for used fuel management in the United States. Discussing how Yucca Mountain, the proposed long-term storage site, is now off the table Secretary Chu pointed to the forthcoming recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on developing a strategy going forward. Importantly, Secretary Chu noted that the focus is on used nuclear fuel which, he said is not necessarily a waste, and that he would like to see technologies developed to utilize these materials.
In case you were wondering, those technologies do exist and are ready to be deployed now. Through AREVA’s recycling technology, we reuse 96 percent of the energy content in used fuel. This process allows for the recovery of this valuable energy resource, increasing domestic energy security and saving 25 percent of natural uranium resources. Recycling used fuel boosts public acceptance of nuclear energy while retaining sufficient flexibility to incorporate longer-term technology developments such as Generation IV reactors.
For more information, watch the video of our La Hague recycling facility that has been operating safely for more than 40 years or read a white paper on how recycling should be an option for managing America’s used nuclear fuel.
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