Spent nuclear fuel ‘is anything but waste’, says expert

Monday, February 21, 2011

WASHINGTON - An expert has claimed that spent nuclear fuel, which includes some plutonium, often is inaccurately referred to as waste but it’s not.

The US’s inability to recycle spent nuclear fuel has put the superpower far behind other countries and represents a missed opportunity to enhance the nation’s energy security and influence other countries, he said.

Dale Klein, former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said largely unfounded concerns and “long-held myths” about the reprocessing of spent fuel have prevented the U.S. from tapping into an extremely valuable resource.

“It is not waste. The waste is in our failure to tap into this valuable and abundant domestic source of clean energy in a systematic way. That’s something we can ill-afford to do,” he said.

Compared to other fuels used in the production of electricity, the energy density of uranium is remarkable, said Klein, noting that 95 percent of the energy value in a bundle of spent nuclear fuel rods remains available to be re-used.

“The once-through nuclear fuel cycle, which is our practice in the U.S., is an enormous waste of potential energy.

“While it is true that the plutonium in recycled nuclear fuel is fissionable, no country in the world has ever made a nuclear weapon out of low-grade plutonium from recycled high burn-up nuclear fuel. It just doesn’t work for a strategic or a tactical nuclear weapon,” he said.

While the U.S. has sat on the sidelines, other countries, including France, Japan, the United Kingdom, Russia, India, and China have dedicated significant resources toward their reprocessing programs, added Klein.

Klein made his remarks at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s (AAAS) annual meeting, in Washington. (ANI)

Filed under: Science and Technology

will not be displayed