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Title: The Back End of the Fuel Cycle Moves Front and Center

Abstract

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,more » 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.« less

Authors:
;
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Lawrence Livermore National Lab. (LLNL), Livermore, CA (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE
OSTI Identifier:
894764
Report Number(s):
UCRL-CONF-219172
TRN: US0700297
DOE Contract Number:
W-7405-ENG-48
Resource Type:
Conference
Resource Relation:
Conference: Presented at: 2006 International High-Level Radioactive Waste Management Conference, Las Vegas, NV, United States, Apr 30 - May 04, 2006
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
11 NUCLEAR FUEL CYCLE AND FUEL MATERIALS; 21 SPECIFIC NUCLEAR REACTORS AND ASSOCIATED PLANTS; 12 MANAGEMENT OF RADIOACTIVE WASTES, AND NON-RADIOACTIVE WASTES FROM NUCLEAR FACILITIES; 29 ENERGY PLANNING, POLICY AND ECONOMY; 45 MILITARY TECHNOLOGY, WEAPONRY, AND NATIONAL DEFENSE; FOSSIL FUELS; FUEL CYCLE; GREENHOUSE EFFECT; HIGH-LEVEL RADIOACTIVE WASTES; LIFETIME; MANAGEMENT; NUCLEAR FUELS; NUCLEAR POWER; NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS; NUCLEAR WEAPONS; PLUTONIUM; POWER GENERATION; REPROCESSING; SECURITY; SPENT FUELS; WASTE DISPOSAL; WEAPONS

Citation Formats

Isaacs, T, and Choi, J. The Back End of the Fuel Cycle Moves Front and Center. United States: N. p., 2006. Web.
Isaacs, T, & Choi, J. The Back End of the Fuel Cycle Moves Front and Center. United States.
Isaacs, T, and Choi, J. Thu . "The Back End of the Fuel Cycle Moves Front and Center". United States. doi:. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/894764.
@article{osti_894764,
title = {The Back End of the Fuel Cycle Moves Front and Center},
author = {Isaacs, T and Choi, J},
abstractNote = {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.},
doi = {},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {Thu Feb 16 00:00:00 EST 2006},
month = {Thu Feb 16 00:00:00 EST 2006}
}

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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.more » 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.« less
  • Five statements can be made concerning information contained in the alternatives document: (1) There are alternative technologies for each step in the management of radioactive wastes from the back end of the LWR fuel cycle. (2) For each waste management step there are technologies that are either commercialized today or available for commercial use. (3) There are backup technologies under development. (4) There is a technical base for using geologic isolation as the method for final disposition of the wastes. (5) The technical base for geologic isolation of the wastes can be put into practice with an aggressive, comprehensive programmore » on provisional geologic storage. 20 fig. (DLC)« less
  • The fuel cycle costs for light water reactors and the demands in the nuclear fuel reload market suggest the need for increasing discharge burnups. Available fuel development efforts such as the use of new cladding tube materials will indeed allow this goal to be achieved. It is expedient from both technical and economic viewpoints to subject high burn-up assemblies to longer term interim storage before further treatment--reprocessing or final disposal--to make use of the natural decay of the activity inventory. Long-term interim storage tends to concentrate almost on dry storage facilities. The capability of LWR fuel assemblies to be safelymore » placed in dry storage facilities has been investigated in the course of extensive R and D programs and proven in practice as well. The results obtained can be employed to derive the conditions under which these fuel assemblies can be safely stored over several decades. Various dry store concepts have been developed and realized, they have been put into use for small and medium-sized fuel inventories. For the storage of larger amounts of fuel Siemens has developed the SIEMENS FUELSTOR as a modular dry block store.« less
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