Jun

23

 This may seem like an under the radar issue, but it's a big deal.

In Carter administration, the US decided that civilian spent nuclear fuel should not be recycled. Instead, it was to be stored and buried in deep geologic repositories.We can have some fun criticizing Carter's decision, but there were reasons for making the disposal decision. The decision paved the way for the construction of Yucca Mountain, which is funded by utilities (not taxpayers).

I'm in favor of recycling. Burying spent nuclear fuel in a cave is like burying a car because the battery died. As a car can be recycled after a new battery installed, nuclear fuel can be recycled after the fuel has been processed.

In the end, recycled fuel will need disposal. However, the volume is dramatically reduced (from a car to a used battery), and the ultimate disposal becomes less costly.

Recycling is an expensive process. Facilities cost billions to build. But, Yucca Mountain has already cost $12 billion, and the project is far from finished.

George Devaux writes: 

From Policy Options for Nuclear Waste Management:

Sustainable Solutions for Expanded Nuclear Energy

"Reprocessing technology has the ability to decrease the volume of HLW by a factor of 4 while at the same time decreasing the required storage timeframe from hundreds of thousands of year to less than 1,000 years. The HLW produced from reprocessing is also vitrified in glass, to produce a stable, homogenous waste product. Reprocessing and recycling SNF could require only one Yucca Mountain-sized repository this century and decrease the amount of fresh uranium fuel required by 25 percent."
 


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