Friday, January 27, 2006

Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing

US May Overturn Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Ban
26 January 2006

NEW SCIENTIST (UNITED STATES)-Reports in US newspapers have suggested that the Bush administration is planning to reverse a policy that Presidents Ford and Carter introduced in 1976 and 1977. Their policy promised that the US would not reprocess the spent fuel from nuclear reactors to extract plutonium because of the risk that hostiles could use it to make nuclear bombs. But now, US Department of Energy officials are proposing a USD 250 million program to restart reprocessing using a new technology known as UREX, developed by the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. This chemical separation process produces a mix of plutonium and uranium, which can be recycled to fuel reactors. According to Damon Moglen, from the Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental lobby group in Washington DC, "This would legitimize the widespread separation and commercial use of plutonium that could be used in nuclear weapons." Moglen also argues that it would send the wrong message to potential proliferators like Iran and North Korea and encourage reprocessing in Russia.

Source: (Reliability: 8)

Comment: According to the Bush Administration, the type of plutonium UREX produces is harder to make into warheads. In addition, the Administration claims that if countries allow the US to reprocess their fuel, it would reduce the risk of countries' plutonium being created by hostiles into bombs. It also sees this as a way to reduce the amount of waste that facilities would have to dispose at Yucca Mountain, in the Nevada Desert.


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