Thursday, 22 November 2012

Recycling spent nuclear fuel: the ultimate solution for the US?

Recycling spent nuclear fuel: the ultimate solution for the US? "Unlike Russia, Japan and several European countries, the United States does not recycle its used nuclear fuel. But new, advanced drivers are reviving the possibility of recycling the nation’s spent nuclear fuel. What will influence this decision and what conditions will need to be met first?"... "Through Areva, France has been at the forefront in UNF recycling and has reached an industrial maturity that lends itself well to use elsewhere. Areva has undertaken de-conversion of enrichment tails at Pierrelatte since the 1980s, and today, at its La Hague site, it operates the MELOX plant; a used-fuel recycling facility with capacity of 1,700 tons per year that has been working since 1995. It is also the world’s only operational large-capacity MOX fuel production plant.
Areva has proposed building a $20bn plant in the US with a similar technology to the one it uses in France, where 17 per cent of electricity is derived from recycled UNF. According to Areva, the group has joined with Duke Energy, one of America's largest nuclear power producers, to submit a proposal to the Department of Energy for the construction of an MOX-fuel fabrication plant to supply MOX fuel to reactors in the US.
“A common question raised during discussions on reprocessing is, ‘If the French are reprocessing used fuel, why isn’t the US?’. In many ways, the U.S. and France represent opposite ends of the spectrum,” notes Sowder.
“In France, the recycling of MOX in light-water reactors is a mature, ongoing commercial practice supported by an existing industrial, commercial, and regulatory infrastructure. This situation has resulted from a deliberate, multi-decade national energy policy prioritizing energy security for a country with limited domestic natural energy resources. Accordingly, there would need to be a compelling reason for France to abandon its recycling programme,” he explains."

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