Michele Kearney's Nuclear Wire

Major Energy and Environmental News and Commentary affecting the Nuclear Industry.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

MIT researchers rethink the nuclear fuel cycles, Yucca Mountain

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is issuing a new analysis of nuclear energy issues today, this time focusing on fuel cycles and what to do about that pesky issue of radioactive waste. The United States would do well to take a step back, reorganize and then proceed with a more open-ended technology-neutral nuclear energy policy, the report suggests, knowing that spent reactor fuel can be safely stored until a viable long-term solution is identified. Building on an earlier analysis, released in 2003 and updated last year, the report starts out with a simple assessment: uranium supplies are sufficient to power the industry for much of the century without recycling or reprocessing. This holds true even with a potential expansion of nuclear power, which would be based on the same once-through fuel cycle deployed in current reactors.
Creating a series of interim storage sites would allow the Department of Energy safely consolidate spent nuclear fuel and meet its legal obligations to industry (shipments to Yucca Mountain were supposed to begin more than a decade ago). In the meantime, the United States can take a more comprehensive look at longer-term storage solutions, looking to countries such as Finland, Sweden and France that have had more luck in building public support for their repositories.
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