The nuclear industry’s push for the next generation of reactors is spurring a renewed look at reusing nuclear waste as reactor fuel, rather than burying it. The implications of such a move have the potential to upend decades of nuclear waste management and global nonproliferation strategies. It also highlights a debate about safety and cost issues from recycling — longtime concerns that advocates say can be overcome. “There’s no government policy decision that has to be made,” said Rod McCullum, senior director of used fuel and decommissioning with the Nuclear Energy Institute. “What has to be made is the business case, and what the advanced reactor developers are telling us is that they think there is a business case for using used fuel as the feedstock.” The new push has in part been heralded by the Department of Energy’s assistant secretary for the Office of Nuclear Energy, Rita Baranwal, who in her first public remarks in taking over her position in 2019 expressed her interest in recycling or reprocessing spent fuel. For Baranwal, the potential to expand past the 5% of energy used in the first cycle of uranium through a reactor presents an opportunity for the industry, especially as an alternative waste management strategy.
E&E News 9th June 2020 read more »