Media Center

Used Fuel

December 09, 2010

In the recent issue of the Edison Electric Institute’s (EEI) Electric Perspectives, Alan Hanson, AREVA’s executive vice-president for technologies and used fuel management, has an informative and noteworthy piece about one of the most well-known challenges to expanding nuclear energy; how best to manage used nuclear fuel:

The main problem is not a matter of onsite storage—NRC has affirmed that used fuel can be stored safely and securely onsite for many years. Nor is it a problem of the concept of a geological repository: The United States will need a repository regardless of its used-fuel strategy. In fact, most of the material awaiting disposal is not waste per se: Only 4 percent of used nuclear fuel is waste material; the remaining 96 percent can be recycled and reused. Recycling allows for reuse of this energy-rich material, conserves natural resources, and makes waste management easier. For a true nuclear renaissance to take place in the United States, used nuclear fuel recycling offers a more sustainable approach to waste management.

Indeed, the economics of recycling are comparable to the once-through approach. Many countries are recycling used fuel safely, efficiently, and with minimal environmental impact.

Areva, for example, has several customers in Europe and Japan using recycled mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel. Perhaps most important, the development of U.S. recycling capacity would reduce proliferation concerns by consuming fissionable plutonium and allow for a used-fuel recycling service to be offered to emerging nuclear countries.

Read the rest here on EEI’s site.