Is U.S. Reprocessing Worth the Risk?

Thumbnail Image


Publication or External Link





Fetter, Steve and Frank N. von Hippel, "Is U.S. Reprocessing Worth the Risk?" Arms Control Today, Vol. 35, No. 7 (September 2005)



Nearly three decades ago, the United States swore off the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel because it cost too much and put separated plutonium into circulation. Now, some in Congress want to launch a massive program to reprocess the spent fuel that has accumulated at U.S. power plants. In May, the House endorsed report language calling on the Department of Energy to prepare “an integrated spent fuel recycling plan for implementation beginning in fiscal year 2007, including…reprocessing, preparation of mixed oxide fuel, vitrification of high level waste products, and temporary process storage.” Supporters, led by Rep. David Hobson (R-Ohio), chairman of the Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee, say the need is imminent. They point out that, in the absence of reprocessing, the amount of spent fuel discharged by U.S. power reactors will soon exceed the legislated storage capacity of the repository being built under Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Moreover, Hobson has been persuaded that the Energy Department has developed “new reprocessing technologies that have the potential to minimize the…streams of radioactive waste products and also eliminate the presence of separated plutonium.”