AREVA presented a virtual tour of our La Hague Recycling Facility providing a closer look at AREVA’s decades of experience in safely and economically recycling used nuclear fuel. If you did not get to see the video the first time, check it out here.
Posts Tagged ‘Nuclear Fuel Recycling’
By Jarret Adams
In an effort to green up the debate on recycling nuclear fuel, several anti-nuclear activists have decided recycle some old misinformation about the topic. In fact, recycling nuclear fuel has some distinct advantages to the once-through approach proposed in the U.S. and deserves consideration as a solid option for our country.
As AREVA Executive V.P. Alan Hanson wrote in an op-ed last year, “Recycling nuclear fuel is a proven solution that makes waste management easier, conserves natural resources, is cost competitive and reduces proliferation concerns.”
So let’s hit a few of the largest myths being spread about recycling:
Myth: The volume of waste to be disposed in a deep geological repository is increased by recycling.
Reality: False. The volume of high-level waste for disposal would decrease by a factor of at least four. The toxicity of this waste would decrease by a factor of 10.
Myth: Recycling nuclear fuel is uneconomical.
Reality: Management of used nuclear fuel – whether you recycle or not – represents only 1 – 2% of the retail price of electricity generated by nuclear energy. In addition , recycling offers other benefits in much the same way as recycling paper or glass costs provide other benefits.
Myth: The use of recycling would eliminate the need for a repository.
Reality: True. AREVA does not claim that recycling would eliminate the need for a repository. One would be required regardless of the used fuel management approach. But with recycling, the U.S. would avoid having to build more than one, perhaps forever.
Myth: Recycling has not been made commercial after decades of research and development.
Reality: AREVA has decades of experience recycling nuclear fuel safely, efficiently and economically for customers around the globe. Today, MOX fuel manufactured by AREVA is in use in 38 reactors in Europe and Japan. AREVA’s Back End business group, which includes recycling, last year posted revenue of about $2.2 billion.
Click here to take a virtual tour of AREVA recycling facility.
By Katherine Berezowskyj
What’s next for nuclear reactors in the United States? Rebecca Smith of the Wall Street Journal just tackled the answer to this question. Her recent piece, “The New Nukes,” took a look at what’s being developed for the new nuclear reactors and how they are going to “be safer, cheaper, and more efficient than current plants.”
With the majority of Americans seeing nuclear energy as a safe and effective way to battle climate change, Smith puts forward that “if there were ever a time that seemed ripe for nuclear energy in the U.S., it’s now.” Her piece took a fare look at the three key areas ─cost, safety, and waste─ where the nuclear industry has been vulnerable, but is now working to solve with development and deployment of a new generation of nuclear reactors.
Even with past accidents, the safety record of the nuclear energy industry has proved this image wrong by maintaining a rigorous safety program over the past 30 years. This next generation currently being developed, the Generation III + reactors, “take everything that’s been learned about safe operations and do it even better.”
“Generation III plants cut down on some of that infrastructure and rely more heavily on passive systems that don’t need human intervention to keep the reactor in a safe condition—reducing the chance of an accident caused by operator error or equipment failure.”
One example discussed was AREVA’s EPR™ reactor whose safety features include upgraded active and passive safety systems and a double containment building. Smith also pointed out that skeptical Union of Concerned Scientists have named it the “only design that is less vulnerable to a serious accident that today’s operating reactors.”
And just as safety has improved with new technology and design developments, so has the cost of new nuclear plants. They are extending the traditional life of the plants to at least 60 years, and “the new plants are also designed to be much simpler and quicker to build, reducing financing costs by potentially hundreds of millions of dollars.”
The issues regarding what do to with the used nuclear fuel include more options than building a permanent storage facility. One possibility Smith mentions is the Generation IV fast reactors which are “designed to burn previously used fuel.”
We would like to mention another option for capturing all of the potential energy still remaining in used fuel─ recycling. For more than 30 years at AREVA’s La Hague facility, we have been recycling used fuel in a process that exponentially reduces the volume of waste for disposal and allows some of the material to be used again as reactor fuel.
Read the whole article for the complete picture. And be sure to check out the comments posted by readers where the discussion on nuclear energy continues.
To find out more on AREVA’s EPR™ for the United States, check it out on our website.
AREVA prides itself on being the leader in the nuclear energy cycle, and the company’s success has caught the attention of Time Magazine. In a piece posted to Time’s online section from August 7, AREVA was identified as “the first place that countries or power companies go when looking for all of their nuclear services─ supplying and enriching uranium, building and managing plants, disposing of their waste ─ under a single roof.”
The article attributes a large part of the company’s success to AREVA CEO Anne Lauvergeon. Ben Elias, a research analyst for Sterne, Agee & Leach, was quoted as saying “if you look at what she’s done since taking her job, you realize Anne Lauvergeon had the drive, creativity and vision to assemble all these parts into a single unit ready for a nuclear renaissance that she saw coming.”
While the Time piece focuses primarily on AREVA’s current profile, it also emphasizes growth in the global demand for nuclear energy. “As governments search for clean, renewable energy sources and consumers worry about volatile oil prices, nuclear power is hot again…over the next decade, the world is expected to build 180 nuclear power plants, up from just 39 between 1999 and today.” These figures include countries like Italy (who just reversed its moratorium on new plant builds), Britain, Japan, and China.
Of these new builds, the attention right now is on Finland where the construction of AREVA’s Generation III+ EPR™ reactor, Olkiluoto 3, is under way. As the article points out “AREVA’s EPR boasts innovations that led the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists to call its design the only one with the ‘potential to be significantly safer and more secure against attack than today’s reactors.’”
While the article notes that the OL3 project is behind schedule and over-budget, AREVA spokesman Jacques-Emmanuel Saulnier responded, “You only see how it works once you’ve built it and proved it’s what you’d said it would be.”
Although there are a couple of points with which AREVA may take issue, the full article, “Areva’s Field of Dreams,” by Bruce Crumley, is definitely worth a read. Check it out on time.com.
The House Committee on Science and Technology spent the morning listening to information on nuclear fuel recycling from AREVA’s Dr. Alan Hanson, Executive Vice-President of Technology and Used Fuel Management.
Some highlights include Hanson’s analysis of the main benefits and criticisms of recycling:
The main benefits associated with recycling are that it makes waste management easier, provides strategic flexibility and confidence for the long term, and saves natural resources and is able to burn plutonium, thereby reducing proliferation concerns.
- Makes waste management easier by reducing the volume of high level waste for disposal. “When such waste is vitrified, or specially-packed into a highly compact glass-like waste form for final storage, and added to the volume of compacted structural waste, the total volume necessary for final disposal is 75% less than the volume required if the used fuel is disposed directly in a repository.”
by Katherine Berezowskyj
After a nuclear reactor has produced base-load, CO2-free energy, there is the matter of what to do with the left-over nuclear fuel. There are currently two options for dealing with the spent or “used” fuel. First is the direct disposal in a deep geological repository. The other option, not currently used in the U.S., is to recycle the spent nuclear fuel.
Yes, it is possible to employ the same approach used to reduce the waste of aluminum cans and paper for used nuclear fuel. And just as the recycling process keeps these materials from being thrown away in a landfill, the same is possible for recycling spent nuclear fuel. Recycling allows for approximately 96% of the spent fuel to be recovered and reused as new fuel in a reactor, thereby reducing the need for new uranium fuel by 25%.
The question then becomes, does recycling generate significantly larger quantities of waste than directly disposing of the spent fuel? The answer is yes and no because it depends on the kinds of waste, whether Low or High Level Waste. The spent fuel generated after time in the reactor is highly radioactive and is considered High Level Waste (HLW). After recycling, only a small portion, 4%, contained in the nuclear spent fuel, is not recyclable. This small portion is made into a very stable glass waste form and is classified as HLW. The metal parts of the nuclear spent fuel assembly are handled similar to HLW. Low Level Waste (LLW) on the other hand, is not highly radioactive and is produced from activities during the recycling process such as gloves, tools, and protection clothes that are used to facilitate the process.
When comparing the volume of waste changes during recycling, the volume of LLW generated is equivalent to about 2% of current LLW production in the U.S. But the LLW produced does not have the same levels of radioactivity as HLW and is able to be stored in a surface or near-surface facility. HLW is much more complicated and expensive to dispose of because it is requires burial in a repository deep underground.
As far as numbers go, recycling reduces the volume of HLW by a factor of 4-5 when compared to direct disposal of HLW. Looking at the spent fuel that comes from U.S. reactors each year, it would cut the quantity of HLW from approximately 2,000 metric tons to around only 780 cubic yards. Reducing the quantity of HLW by such a large degree can significantly delay the need to build an additional repository to hold the HLW produced in the U.S. This has the potential for a very considerable positive economic impact. Also, the recycling process significantly diminishes the waste toxicity by a factor of 10.
When it is possible to reduce the volume of HLW and drastically cut the need for complicated underground storage, why take care of it any other way?
“A 1,000-megawatt coal plant is fed by a 110-car coal train arriving every day. A nuclear reactor is replenished by a single tractor-trailer bringing new fuel rods once every 18 months. Over the course of a year, the coal plant will release 400,000 tons of sulfur and fly ash. Some of this ends up in landfills, but most escapes into the atmosphere where it kills 30,000 people annually, according to the E.P.A. Then there’s the carbon dioxide — seven millions tons annually from each plant — which is the principle cause of global warming.
By comparison, the “wastes” of nuclear power can once again be contained in a single truck. I recently watched one of these spent fuel assemblies being lifted into the receiving room at France’s nuclear reprocessing center in La Hague. It is an eerie sight — the most radioactive object in the solar system emitting double what you would have received standing at ground zero in Hiroshima. Yet a three-foot wall separated us, and the emissions didn’t even register on our badges. More than 95 percent of the spent fuel rod can be recycled. That is why France is able to store all its “waste” (from 30 years of producing 75 percent of its electricity) beneath the floor of a single room.
It all seems too good to be true. People conjure up all kinds of nightmare scenarios just to compensate. Yet the reality remains: nuclear energy is the most environmentally benign discovery ever made.”
– William Tucker, author of Terrestrial Energy
The official White House website has added a new feature, “Open For Questions,” which allows people to ask the President key questions on the economy and vote up other people’s submissions.
So far, over 13,000 people have submitted over 16,000 questions. There are a number of good questions on the economic effect of nuclear energy, in the category of Green Jobs and Energy. Here are some that caught our eye:
Mr. President why not embrace Nuclear Power it would create tens of thousands of jobs and cut our dependence on foreign oil . The job creation would be sustaniable and would occur in may areas of the country that need them.
jsc, malvern, pa
With the scarcity of Oil looming as well as other resources, has your administration thought about implimenting Nuclear power on a more massive scale, so that we would get a large amount of our power from nuclear energy, similar to France?
Wesley M, Sammamish, WA
Do you have any plans on closing the nuclear fuel cycle in the United States so that we can recycle our spent nuclear fuel?
C-los with the Most, Knoxville, TN
The French success with nuclear power is based on standardized designs and recycling uranium. When will the DOE and NCR benchmark this success?
raymillr, Cincinnati, OH
Mr. President, if cutting green house emissions are such a high priority in your agenda, why not continue government support for bringing the next gen nuclear power plans on line. This technolgy is ultra clean and would create numerous jobs.
jrgarne, monterey, ca
We’d recommend you go make your voice heard, and ask your questions. If you like these questions and ones like them, go vote them up. The President will answer some of the most popular questions on Thursday, so submit questions and vote soon to make your voice heard!
Several of our fellow nuclear bloggers have already linked to William Tucker’s excellent editorial from the Wall Street Journal, “There Is No Such Thing as Nuclear Waste.” We thought we’d add our voice to the resounding applause for this excellent piece, which is well-written and well-argued. AREVA is proud to be leading the way in recycling and reprocessing used nuclear fuel – which is exactly what Tucker argues should be part of our long-term plans as we look to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, combat climate change, and promote green energy.
Some highlights from the article:
So is [defunding Yucca Mountain] really the death knell for nuclear power? Not at all. The repository at Yucca Mountain was only made necessary by our failure to understand a fundamental fact about nuclear power: There is no such thing as nuclear waste. . . .
So is this material “waste”? Absolutely not. Ninety-five percent of a spent fuel rod is plain old U-238, the nonfissionable variety that exists in granite tabletops, stone buildings and the coal burned in coal plants to generate electricity. Uranium-238 is 1% of the earth’s crust. It could be put right back in the ground where it came from.
Of the remaining 5% of a rod, one-fifth is fissionable U-235 — which can be recycled as fuel. Another one-fifth is plutonium, also recyclable as fuel. Much of the remaining three-fifths has important uses as medical and industrial isotopes. Forty percent of all medical procedures in this country now involve some form of radioactive isotope, and nuclear medicine is a $4 billion business. Unfortunately, we must import all our tracer material from Canada, because all of our isotopes have been headed for Yucca Mountain. . . .
So shed no tears for Yucca Mountain. Instead of ending the nuclear revival, it gives us the chance to correct a historical mistake and follow France’s lead in developing complete reprocessing for nuclear material.
by Laurence Pernot
Though people who follow the debate over used nuclear fuel are well aware of the benefits of recycling, we’ve found that many in the general public don’t even know that it’s an option. There’s a lot of confusion out there about used fuel recycling – whether it’s feasible, practical, and safe.
So we’ve prepared this brief FAQ about nuclear fuel recycling and about AREVA’s innovation in this crucial part of our nuclear future. We hope you’ll find it useful. Please be sure to post any other questions you might have about recycling in the comments section… we’re always looking for ways to engage in better and more fruitful dialogues about nuclear fuel recycling.
Why should the US recycle used nuclear fuel?
First and foremost, here in the U.S., that is a decision that has to be made by the government – taking into account its own policy determinations and the needs of U.S. utilities. Nevertheless, we think that recycling is an economically, environmentally and socially responsible approach. Here’s why: