The Back End of the Fuel Cycle Moves Front and Center

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For many years, the commercial nuclear business has remained relatively stable in many ways. That is unlikely to be the case in the coming years. While some countries have called for the phase out of nuclear power and others have ordered a small number of new plants, the overall profile of the nuclear power business has changed little. The number of countries with nuclear power plants is not much different than 10 years ago and the total number of operating plants has increased only slightly. Commercial enrichment and reprocessing services have remained the province of a few countries and consortia. ... continued below

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Isaacs, T & Choi, J November 2, 2005.

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For many years, the commercial nuclear business has remained relatively stable in many ways. That is unlikely to be the case in the coming years. While some countries have called for the phase out of nuclear power and others have ordered a small number of new plants, the overall profile of the nuclear power business has changed little. The number of countries with nuclear power plants is not much different than 10 years ago and the total number of operating plants has increased only slightly. Commercial enrichment and reprocessing services have remained the province of a few countries and consortia. Repository programs have moved forward slowly in some cases, backward in others, with a very small number making substantial progress. We are now witnessing the beginnings of serious change, with significant consequences for the future nuclear regime. Business as usual will not be the business of the future. The way the nuclear and policy community respond will have much to do with energy adequacy, national security, international stability, and environmental consequences including waste management and disposal. A number of events and trends are becoming increasingly apparent and are cause for both opportunity and caution: (1) New nuclear power plant orders are likely to grow and spread, particularly in the developing world, e.g. China and India. (2) The growing recognition that the developing world will be a major competitor for limited energy resources is raising awareness in the developed world regarding concerns for future energy security. (3) Clearer evidence of the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on global warming, largely from the burning of fossil fuels, is creating more attention on the environmental benefits of nuclear power. (4) The last decade has shown unequivocal evidence of countries lying, cheating on their NPT obligation, and covertly carrying out nuclear weapons-related activities. Some countries have suggested their presumed need for a domestic nuclear fuel cycle as a rationale to pursue enrichment and/or reprocessing capabilities, which would move them to the doorstep of being nuclear weapons capable. The DPRK even took the action to abrogate the NPT to hold on to its nuclear weapons program. (5) 9/11 and other evidence have made it undeniable that terrorist groups would like to obtain weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, and would use them if they could. A number of initiatives have been proposed recently to allow for the growth and spread of nuclear power while limiting the justifications for additional countries to pursue the acquisition of enrichment or reprocessing capabilities. Enrichment or reprocessing are the only ways for countries to gain the indigenous capability to transform natural materials and fuel for and from nuclear power plants to directly weapons-usable materials.

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  • Presented at: International High-Level Radioactive Waste Management Conference, Las Vegas, NV, United States, Apr 30 - May 04, 2006

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  • Report No.: UCRL-CONF-216758
  • Grant Number: W-7405-ENG-48
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 886675
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc875909

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Office of Scientific & Technical Information Technical Reports

Reports, articles and other documents harvested from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information.

Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) is the Department of Energy (DOE) office that collects, preserves, and disseminates DOE-sponsored research and development (R&D) results that are the outcomes of R&D projects or other funded activities at DOE labs and facilities nationwide and grantees at universities and other institutions.

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  • November 2, 2005

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  • Sept. 21, 2016, 2:29 a.m.

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  • Dec. 2, 2016, 8:30 p.m.

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Isaacs, T & Choi, J. The Back End of the Fuel Cycle Moves Front and Center, article, November 2, 2005; Livermore, California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc875909/: accessed November 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.