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. The introduction of new plants, the spread to new countries, and the development of key elements of the fuel cycle such as enrichment, reprocessing and waste disposal have been quite modest. That is unlikely to be the case in the coming years. 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 ... continued below

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Isaacs, T & Choi, J February 16, 2006.

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For many years, the commercial nuclear business has remained relatively stable in many ways. The introduction of new plants, the spread to new countries, and the development of key elements of the fuel cycle such as enrichment, reprocessing and waste disposal have been quite modest. That is unlikely to be the case in the coming years. 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 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. Most of these initiatives have fresh fuel assurance as a central component. The rationale is simple; if a country can have assurance that it will receive all the fresh fuel it needs for the lifetime of its nuclear power plants, there should be no reason for it to pursue the difficult and costly capability to enrich the fuel itself or to reprocess its spent fuel to recover the produced plutonium for recycle as a fuel in its reactors. However, such offers are unlikely to be fully persuasive if they are not connected to complementary offers for management of the spent nuclear fuel that is created during power production. In this paper, we discuss the complexity of the linkage to spent fuel take-back and the challenges and opportunities this present to nations repository programs.

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PDF-file: 11 pages; size: 0.1 Mbytes

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  • Presented at: 2006 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-219172
  • Grant Number: W-7405-ENG-48
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 894764
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc886947

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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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  • February 16, 2006

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  • Sept. 22, 2016, 2:13 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, February 16, 2006; Livermore, California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc886947/: accessed November 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.