Posts Tagged ‘Yucca Mountain’

September 28, 2010 | 11:02 am

PBS Looks at U.S. Indecision for Managing Used Fuel



This weekend, Watch List on PBS television in New York aired a segment that looked at the situation for nuclear waste in the United States. With over 100 reactors, the United States has accumulated over 60,000 tons of used fuel that is safely stored at reactor sites. However, the documentary points out that this is only a temporary solution, and that it is not a viable long term option for the United States.

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

read more…

September 23, 2010 | 5:37 pm

Fueling the American Nuclear Revival

By Katherine Berezowskyj

Industry experts discussed the importance of the nuclear fuel life cycle today in the latest session of the ongoing series, The American Nuclear Energy Revival, hosted by the U.S. Energy Association, The Sept. 23 briefing examined the steps of nuclear fuel cycle from mining to uranium enrichment to used fuel recycling.

Discussing uranium mining, Grant Isaac of Cameco, explained the operations involved to obtain the natural resource – exploration, mining, milling, and conversion – and emphasized the important of sustainability and life cycle environmental impact. Isaac pointed out a common misconception regarding the scale that mining’s impact on the environment. Compared to other energy sources, uranium is quite small. Specifically, he pointed out that uranium mine covering one square mile, such as one Cameco operates in Canada, yields the same amount of energy as produced by 71 billion barrels of oil or 17 billion tons of coal.

From UX Consulting Company, Ruthanne Neely discussed the global enrichment market. While current capacity does not meet U.S. demand, Neely explained that AREVA and Urenco have two centrifuge enrichment facilities under various stages of development that will add domestic capacity to the U.S. market. She noted that this growth will be rivaled by the Russians and the Chinese as they expand their enrichment resources and build more nuclear reactors.

On the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle, AREVA’s Dr. Alan Hanson discussed that with Yucca Mountain off of the table, and with the growing nuclear revival, he recommended that the United States make a more sustainable decision for managing its used fuel. While dry-cask storage is a safe approach for the interim, he noted that recycling as part of integrated fuel management presents a solid option.

Hanson explained that the countries with large nuclear generation that have chosen to recycle used fuel have done so, because it enhances the security of supply. In effect, recycled nuclear fuel offers a domestic source of material for nations that are reliant on imports. The other benefits he listed include making final waste management easier, conserving natural resources, and supporting non-proliferation objectives.

More importantly, Hanson pointed out that finding a solution is a social responsibility, and these materials should not be left for the next generation. Americans recycle soda cans and newspapers even though it is not necessarily less expensive and no shortage of these resources exists.

Check out more information on these aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle and AREVA’s operations in each: mining, enrichment, and recycling.

July 19, 2010 | 11:22 am

Washington Post Weighs in on Nuclear Waste Management

By Jarret Adams

An editorial in today’s Washington Post urges the government, “Don’t let politics drive a nuclear-waste decision,” a wise bit of advice given the current state of America’s nuclear waste management strategy. It points out the difficulty faced by the Blue Ribbon Commission in making a recommendation on the nation’s nuclear waste management policies when its charter makes it difficult for this panel to do so.

So far, the Obama administration has been vocal about its commitment to alternative energies. In January, it created a commission to rethink the nation’s nuclear policy. But this broad reevaluation rings hollow when it is accompanied by taking off the table the one storage site into which the government has poured $9 billion and more than 20 years of research and planning – without even seeing whether it meets the NRC’s licensing standards.

Whether the government decides to revive the Yucca Mountain project is not the main issue. We will need a repository regardless of the waste management strategy we employ.

However, the editorial falters when it claims that recycling will not reduce the amount used fuel that needs to be stored. In fact, recycling using current technology would divide by at least four the volume of waste that must go to repository. And this waste will be 10 times less toxic than used fuel that has not been recycled. (The Post was correct on this point.)

For more information on the potential for recycling as part of America’s strategy for managing used nuclear fuel, click here.

October 20, 2009 | 12:27 pm

Bloomberg Misses the Point on Recycling

Jeremy van Loon over at Bloomberg has a piece up talking about the “waste problem” that will result from the nuclear renaissance.  He asserts that we don’t have a permanent solution yet for storing used nuclear fuel.  But he glosses over what we think needs to be a major part of the world’s solution managing used fuel – recycling.

What he misses is the enormous waste – pun intended – involved in the U.S.’s current once-through fuel cycle.  He briefly mentions recycling deep down in the article…

Spent fuel is an “opportunity” because it contains un-used energy, said Lisa Price, vice president for the fuel business of GE.

Recycling used fuel into new fuel for reactors is done in a few nations such as France. It’s one solution for the “final storage” of radioactive material, said a spokeswoman at Areva, the biggest reactor builder.

…but doesn’t place enough emphasis on the importance of recycling used nuclear fuel.  We don’t throw cans, bottles, or paper in the trash can anymore, because we realize how wasteful it is to throw away something that could be recycled into more cans, bottles, and paper.  Used nuclear fuel is the same way: isn’t the solution to the massive quantities of used nuclear fuel – fuel that still has a lot of useful energy left in it – to reprocess it and get more energy out of it?

AREVA’s recycling process – which has been proven over decades in France – pulls the useful energy out of that used nuclear fuel, and reduces the rest of the high-level waste to compact and vitrified (glass) logs, which can be stored safely away from the environment.  As AREVA’s EVP Dr. Alan Hanson wrote in his op-ed in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer a couple of weeks ago, recycling could divide “by at least four” the amount of material that would need to be placed in long-term storage.  In addition to reducing the amount of waste – and putting it in a much safer vitrified configuration – recycling spent fuel would give us more useful fuel for nuclear reactors, fuel that’s already being safely used in many countries including France, China, and Japan.

Jeremy van Loon is right to point out that if nuclear power is going to be a part of the world’s long-term carbon-free energy solution, we need a more sustainable solution for managing used fuel.  But we can’t – and shouldn’t – gloss over a process that can
cut the volume of waste for disposal by a factor of four and produce even more useful material to use in reactors.  Recycling absolutely must be a part of our nuclear energy future – and we’re proud to be leading the way in innovation for better, more efficient recycling solutions.

October 8, 2009 | 3:55 pm

Alan Hanson on Recycling in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer

alan-hanson

AREVA EVP Dr. Alan Hanson, who’s in charge of our recycling efforts in the U.S., has a great editorial up in the Cleveland Plain Dealer making the case for recycling nuclear fuel as a major part of America’s long-term nuclear energy plans, and pointing out the need to recycle used fuel instead of just letting it all go to waste:

Recycling nuclear fuel is a proven solution that makes waste management easier, conserves natural resources, is cost competitive and reduces proliferation concerns.

Recycling used nuclear fuel reduces the volume of high-level waste for disposal in a repository such as the one envisioned at Yucca Mountain. Only 4 percent of used fuel is high-level waste; the remaining 96 percent can be recycled and reused as fuel for nuclear plants.

Check out the rest of Dr. Hanson’s op-ed over at the Plain-Dealer‘s site.

June 17, 2009 | 1:19 pm

Dr. Alan Hanson of AREVA Testifies before the House Committee on Science and Technology

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.”
  • read more…

March 24, 2009 | 3:58 pm

Recycling Can Help Address Waste Challenges and Make Economic Sense

by Jarret Adams and Gilles Clement

Rob Inglis at The New Republic‘s Energy and Environment blog, among others, suggested recently that recycling nuclear fuel is too costly to pursue in the United States and that closing the fuel cycle would have little effect on the demand for repository space. We at AREVA believe that recycling can make economic sense and can significantly reduce the volume and toxicity of the waste that must be emplaced in a permanent repository.

1. Recycling Is Not Too Costly

In 2006, the Boston Consulting Group performed a study with input from AREVA concluding that with uranium at $31/lb of U3O8 ($80/kg) the cost of recycling was roughly equivalent to that of direct disposal, assuming repository costs of $700/kg of nuclear material for disposal.

This study was based on the actual figures from existing commercial used fuel recycling plants in Europe. Whereas, previous studies were based upon assumptions or data derived from nuclear weapons complex operation which are not applicable. The cost of recycling is offset by the sale of recycled fuel, specifically mixed oxide (MOX) fuel and fuel made of reprocessed uranium. In addition, much less repository space is required, about one-fourth to one-fifth of the volume remains after recycling.

Today, the long-term price of uranium is about $60/lb of U3O8 and the expected cost of Yucca Mountain repository is about 900$/kg of material for disposal. Hence, recycling makes even more economical sense today, and trend will likely not reverse as worldwide uranium demand grows and uncertainties regarding repository costs increase.

2. Recycling Does Reduce the Need for Additional Repository Space

Recycling does not eliminate the need for a final repository. But it does indeed offer the potential to reduce significantly the volume of waste for disposal. As we have pointed out several times here, recycling can reduce the volume by a factor of at least four and toxicity by a factor or 10.

Used MOX fuel will not be sent for direct disposal. A sustainable recycling strategy is based on recycling all used fuel, including MOX fuel. The recovered material will be recycled in the current or next generation of reactors. This is why recycling reduces the demand on repository space. Recycling nuclear fuel can postpone perhaps indefinitely the need for additional repositories.

Heat is a driving issue for waste storage, but the vitrified waste (the advanced waste packaging that contains the recycling byproducts) can be stored safely until it is ready for disposal. Because all useable material has been removed for recycling, the remaining material requires only limited safeguards. The durability of vitrified glass logs in the repository containers is that of natural volcanic obsidian rock (which is at least 300,000 years).

March 16, 2009 | 4:30 pm

Excellent Editorial from WSJ

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.

March 13, 2009 | 9:53 am

Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Nuclear Energy

“Nuclear energy is an essential part of our energy mix…it provides clean baseload generation of electricity” – Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Wednesday, March 11

Energy Secretary Steven Chu

Energy Secretary Steven Chu (photo courtesy Obama-Biden Transition Team)

Energy Secretary Steven Chu agreed with assertions from both Democrats and Republicans that nuclear energy should be a continuing part of the U.S. clean energy mix. He said he is prepared to act on the DOE loan guarantees for new reactors and encouraged the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to move forward on licensing new plants. He reiterated the Administration’s position published in the budget outline that Yucca Mountain is not a workable solution. However, he also admitted that a long-term used-fuel strategy is the obligation of the federal government and that he will convene a blue ribbon panel to study the issue this year. He added that closing the fuel cycle should be studied as part of that strategy.

March 6, 2009 | 1:34 pm

It’s the Right Time to Reconsider U.S. Recycling

Yucca Mountain

Yucca Mountain

During a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing yesterday, the discussion of the future of the Yucca Mountain project raised the possibility of recycling nuclear fuel as part of the nation’s used fuel management strategy.

Recycling nuclear fuel would enable us to reduce the volume of material for disposal by a factor of at least four and reduce toxicity by a factor 10 (based on experience in France). It also turns the most difficult waste into a vitrified form (glass logs) that is more stable, durable and manageable for long-term storage in a repository. If recycled, the 60,000 metric tons of used fuel stored at nuclear plant sites could provide enough fuel to power America’s 104 nuclear reactors for seven to eight years.

If the U.S. turns to recycling we could defer having to find and build a second or third repository, perhaps forever. Recycling would postpone or eliminate the need for additional repository capacity. There’s no doubt that locating a geological repositories requires some level of acceptance by the local community. But this task would be made easier if you can limit its size and avoid having to build multiple repositories.

AREVA has recycled used fuel in France for customers in Europe and Japan for several decades and continues to do so today. This technology is safe, mature and cost effective. In the United States, we recycle glass, aluminum and paper; why not recycle nuclear fuel? In addition to the reduction in the amount of waste we must dispose, we would also conserve the amount of new uranium that we must use. Facing the expansion of nuclear energy worldwide, this is important to consider in terms of U.S. energy security as well.

In the end, we believe that recycling is just common sense.