Love Rod Adams’ recent post on how “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” is a saying that is “good for Aluminum, good for Uranium.” As his posts often are, it’s a very well thought through and well written response to the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s recent stance against nuclear fuel recycling. It’s great and well worth the quick read.
Archive for the ‘Recycling’ Category
By Jarret Adams
Amid the many benefits that America’s 104 nuclear power plants provide, increased energy security is rarely mentioned. It is perhaps obscured by the fact that nuclear energy is by far the nation’s largest source of low-carbon electricity. People often talk about the reliability of U.S. nuclear power plants with average capacity factor above 90 percent. And nuclear power produces low-cost electricity – building a new plant is a significant investment, but the cost of electricity from this plant over its 60-year lifespan is predictable and affordable.
But what often gets lost in the shuffle is how our investment in nuclear power makes our energy supply more secure. Nuclear plant fuel comes mostly from uranium, which is plentiful. Utilities sign long-term contracts for uranium supply. Most of the mined uranium in American reactors comes from Canada, perhaps our nation’s closest ally and trading partner. (However, it should be noted that about 50% of U.S. nuclear fuel comes from converted Soviet weapons material, but that is another story.)
Interest is growing for the development of recycling in the United States, AREVA Inc. CEO Jacques Besnainou told a roomful of reporters yesterday at a breakfast sponsored by the Energy Daily in Washington, D.C. Besnainou said that talks with U.S. utilities have “accelerated” during the past few months regarding the possibility of developing a U.S. recycling plant, as mentioned in an Energy Daily article.
As a similar account by Reuters noted, Besnainou said he is hopeful that AREVA can begin planning development of a recycling facility as early as 2015. The article added that:
Besnainou said a recycling center would be preferable to developing interim storage sites, such as those being considered by the Obama administration’s Blue Ribbon commission on nuclear waste.
“When you do a recycling center, you’re being part of the solution. You’re taking care of the fuel, you’re making the fuel less dangerous,” Besnainou said. “Interim storage is kicking the can down the road.”
Draft recommendations from the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, formed to address America’s nuclear waste management strategy, have called for one or more interim storage facilities where used fuel could be stored safely for decades. While AREVA supports the commission’s draft recommendations in general, Besnainou noted that developing recycling as part of a comprehensive approach represents a better long-term solution.
He added that AREVA also is very supportive of the panel’s recommendation to create a Federal Corporation (Fed Corp), similar to the Tennessee Valley Authority, to implement America’s used nuclear fuel strategy.
Besnainou concluded that building a recycling facility would enable the United States to safely delay the opening of a permanent repository for at least 50 years. The administration decided to stop funding the Yucca Mountain repository project in 2009. A Bloomberg article noted that AREVA already recycles used fuel for customers in Europe. It added:
The U.S. [recycling] facility, which may be operating by 2025, would create thousands of jobs in the community where it is built, Besnainou said.
Host communities would be more supportive of an interim storage facility if it were accompanied by a “pilot” recycling plant, Besnainou said. As reported in a Dow Jones article, he added that “communities would compete to host a recycling operation because it would mean more jobs and investment than a fuel storage facility.”
AREVA last month issued a comprehensive white paper detailing the company’s vision for developing recycling in the United States and the benefits of this technology.
The Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future holds today its final public meeting before issuing draft recommendations for managing used nuclear fuel. One of their major considerations in shaping the policy of our energy future will be to decide whether to strategically view the 60,000 metric tons (plus 2,000 metric tons annually) of used U.S. nuclear fuel as waste, or as a significant recyclable energy resource, and whether that resource is commercially viable.
As an experienced, successful provider of used nuclear fuel recycling, we issued a white paper today detailing our perspective, as summed up in this statement by David Jones, senior vice president of AREVA Inc.:
“Recycling is a proven solution that conserves natural resources, simplifies waste management and is cost competitive. We must think beyond just temporary storage and permanent disposal – recycling is an essential part of building a more sustainable fuel cycle.”
Outlined in the document is a suggested U.S. used fuel recycling program that includes:
- Implementation of an enhanced COEX™ (Coextraction) process where no pure plutonium is separated anywhere in the facility.
- Co-location of treatment and fuel fabrication plants to avoid transportation of intermediate nuclear material outside of the facilities.
- Overall enhanced protection systems and design approaches.
- Flexibility in design to allow deployment of advanced separations processes, when such processes are developed and commercially industrialized, supporting fully closing the fuel cycle.
As our white paper concludes:
“It is crucial that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission continue developing a regulatory framework for deploying commercial recycling facilities. Congress and the Administration must likewise chart a strategic course for sustainable fuel cycle management. This national policy commitment must recognize used nuclear fuel as a resource, not a waste, and facilitate the consolidation and recycling of this resource, continue R&D, and develop a national repository. Executing this policy requires an entity, such as a Federal Corporation (FedCorp), that it is broadly chartered, appropriately capitalized, insulated from political volatility, and capable of sustaining long-term projects.”
Read the full document (PDF link) and let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Nearly one year has passed since AREVA debuted the virtual tour of its La Hague recycling facility in the Normandy region of France. At the Waste Management conference in Phoenix yesterday, I had the opportunity to do “vitual” virtual tour for conference attendees, explaining the making of this extraordinary event.
The original event held in Washington, D.C., last March was meant to illustrate to those unable to visit Normandy in person AREVA’s experience with recycling nuclear fuel. As readers of this space already know, AREVA has decades of experience safely and effectively recycling used fuel for customers around the globe. And development of recycling technology in the United States remains a solid option that could enable us to make better use of natural resourses and make waste management simpler.
Click here to view to view the virtual tour.
S.C. Sens. Graham, DeMint Support Idea of Recycling
Speaking before the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future on Friday January 7, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) expressed their support for recycling nuclear fuel and said that developing this capability at the Savannah River Site would create jobs and spur regional investment.
Last week, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued its final Safety Evaluation Report for the MOX (mixed oxide) Fuel Fabrication Facility. Currently under construction on the Savannah River Site, the MOX Facility is a Department of Energy program to construct a facility that will convert former nuclear weapons material into nuclear fuel as part of an arms reduction agreement with Russia. This nuclear fuel will be used by commercial reactors and, in doing so, will make the materials unusable for weapons.
In the recent issue of the Edison Electric Institute’s (EEI) Electric Perspectives, Alan Hanson, AREVA’s executive vice-president for technologies and used fuel management, has an informative and noteworthy piece about one of the most well-known challenges to expanding nuclear energy; how best to manage used nuclear fuel:
The main problem is not a matter of onsite storage—NRC has affirmed that used fuel can be stored safely and securely onsite for many years. Nor is it a problem of the concept of a geological repository: The United States will need a repository regardless of its used-fuel strategy. In fact, most of the material awaiting disposal is not waste per se: Only 4 percent of used nuclear fuel is waste material; the remaining 96 percent can be recycled and reused. Recycling allows for reuse of this energy-rich material, conserves natural resources, and makes waste management easier. For a true nuclear renaissance to take place in the United States, used nuclear fuel recycling offers a more sustainable approach to waste management.
Areva, for example, has several customers in Europe and Japan using recycled mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel. Perhaps most important, the development of U.S. recycling capacity would reduce proliferation concerns by consuming fissionable plutonium and allow for a used-fuel recycling service to be offered to emerging nuclear countries.
Read the rest here on EEI’s site.
The International Energy Agency describes energy security as “the uninterrupted physical availability at a price which is affordable, while respecting environment concerns.”
As the world become comparatively smaller with more people and fewer natural resources, the topic of energy security is more and more prominent. Providing energy from domestic and sustainable sources, such as nuclear energy and renewables, is a solution that should get more attention.
It is commonly recognized that renewables—like wind, solar, and biomass—derive their power from natural sources that are continuously available and a relatively certain resource.
As a source of energy that produces no emissions during generation, nuclear energy also has the ability to provide a critical domestic energy for the United States. Beyond this reliability for domestic production, the nuclear fuel recycling also supports the resource availability and security.
Recycling contributes to energy security because 96% of the content of the used fuel is reusable energy. AREVA’s recycling technology enables the recovery of valuable energy resources, providing for greater domestic energy security. In fact, if recycled, the 60,000 metric tons of U.S. commercial used nuclear fuel represents the energy equivalent of eight years of nuclear fuel supply for today’s entire U.S. nuclear reactor fleet. Further, the availability of recycled fuel provides a tool for the nuclear energy sector to protect against potential rises in uranium prices by providing recycled fuel whose production cost is independent of uranium prices.
This sentiment for long term viability was echoed at the recent Asian Nuclear Prospects 2010 Conference. The majority conclusion from the global panel of experts was that recycling used nuclear fuel “is vital for the sustainable growth of nuclear power.” Atomic Energy Commission member member M.R. Srinivasan said: ‘There is some sort of convergence of ideas on the closed fuel cycle amongst Asian countries, Russia, France and others. Asia and Europe can work on a common platform as there is no time available to look for new uranium sources.’
Jan Phillips, AREVA Federal Services
I had the opportunity recently to visit AREVA’s French facilities with members of AREVA’s grassroots outreach organization, the Community Advisory Council. The Council was established to provide nuclear educational opportunities to members of the African-American, Latino-American, Asian-American and Native-American communities. We visited La Hague, Flamanville-3, Georges Bess II, MELOX, Creusot Forge, and Chalon St. Marcel in a week. Needless to say, it was a whirlwind trip!