Archive for the ‘Reprocessing’ Category
Friday, January 21st, 2011
January 21, 2011
Russia could soon be reprocessing American spent fuel under the Obama Administration’s revival of the 123 Agreement originally negotiated by the Bush Administration. The pact was originally signed in 2008 but then suspended with the outbreak of the Russian-Georgian conflict that year. The Obama Administration has now quietly revived the agreement.
The revival of the treaty might help solve the "[struggles] with nuclear waste fuel management,” Kim Iskyan, a director at the Eurasia Group consulting firm, told Talkingpointsmemo.com “Russia has positioned itself as a repository for nuclear waste, and under the terms of the 123 Agreement, U.S. companies may be able to send nuclear waste to Russia for reprocessing and storage."
Matthew Rojansky, Deputy Director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment, commented, "In a few years’ time, . . it is likely that the U.S. and Russia will be able to cooperate much more extensively in a number of areas: supplying unmet demand for enriched uranium reactor fuel for U.S. reactors, building new enrichment facilities in the U.S. which take advantage of advanced Russian enrichment technology, and exporting spent fuel to Russia for storage and reprocessing."
Russia is now marketing its own reactors to other countries with a standing offer to take back the spent fuel at the end of the fuel cycle. It will then reprocess them into new fuel rods and sell them back to contracting countries. Writing of Russia’s plans, a New York Times reporter commented that the Russians have “a peculiar lack of discomfort with all things nuclear.” That “peculiar lack” may now enable Russia to do for the U.S. what we can’t do for ourselves – manage a complete nuclear fuel cycle.
Read more about it at Talking Points Memo
Tuesday, January 18th, 2011
January 18, 2011
Nuclear Townhallâ€¨ â€¨
China may have invented a new reprocessing pathway but it will be at least a decade before it can go into full-scale commercial operation, according to officials with the China National Nuclear Corporation. â€¨
â€¨Last week, CNNC announced a technological breakthrough that it said could extend the nation’s uranium supplies for 3000 years. The “breakthrough” is likely just a small tweak to existing reprocessing technologies already commercialized by France and Russia. "The technological breakthrough is a crucial step toward initial practical application, which is likely to happen within a year," Li Tao, a spokeswoman for CNNC, told China Daily. The strategic move toward closing the fuel cycle contrasts sharply with the U.S., where reprocessing has been in limbo for 30 years after being derailed by non-proliferation concerns. Pakistan, Israel, South Africa and North Korea have all developed nuclear weapons in the meantime.
â€¨China has set ambitious goals for its nuclear program and is aggressively pursuing them. “According to the World Nuclear Association, China’s demands for uranium could rise to 20,000 tons annually by 2020, more than a third of the 50,572 tons mined globally last year,” reports China Daily. “The nation has more than 170,000 tons of known uranium resources. Industry analysts said two thirds of China’s uranium needs would depend on overseas supplies. Last month, CNNC produced its first barrel of uranium in Nigeria, the company’s first overseas mine. In June, CNNC signed its first long-term contract for uranium ore with Cameco Corp of Canada for more than 10,000 tons over the next decade.”
Read more about it at China Daily
Wednesday, January 5th, 2011
January 5, 2011
Less than a week after China announced a new recycling pathway that will purportedly give it a 3,000-year fuel supply, India has announced the tenfold expansion of its own reprocessing effort.
â€¨This Friday public officials will inaugurate a 100-tonne-per-year center that will replace an older 10-tonne facility at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Tarapur. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is scheduled to preside at the ceremonies.
â€¨â€¨“The new facility . . would greatly enhance India’s presence in the select club of countries using the closed fuel cycle technology,” reports the Bombay News. “According to a high-ranking official, the new facility would also be used for commercial exploitation in the future.”â€¨
â€¨India’s step up into full-scale commercial reprocessing now expands the Recycling Club to include Canada, France, Britain, Russia, Japan and China. The only major nuclear countries that are not reprocessing are the United States and South Korea and the Koreans are stalled only because of U.S. non-proliferation issues. The final approval of a MOX facility in South Carolina for recycling weapons material this week, however, indicates that, slowly but surely, the U.S. may be creeping back into the game.
Read more about it at the Bombay News
Wednesday, January 5th, 2011
January 5, 2011
From the Editors
Win some, lose some. Newsweek’s website features a run-of-the-mill horror story about how highly trained teams of commandos could break through the security system at a nuclear reactor, and do something-or-other that would set off the inevitable “nuclear holocaust.” The feature mixes in apples and oranges adding the safety of spent nuclear fuel to the security smorgasbord
Specially trained commando teams made up of military veterans actually mount such attacks periodically to test security systems. The news is that in 100 such attempts over the past five years, the commandos have succeeded in getting inside the perimeter eight times. Wonder how many times they could get into the White House? David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Lawyers – no, sorry, Scientists – is on hand to announce the whole thing is really a cover-up: “The industry is hiding behind the 9/11 tragedy to withhold information like which plants have failed tests and repairs that have been made.”
Remember, all this is to protect against a hostile civilization on the other side of the globe whose main accomplishments since 2001 have been to send one terrorist with a bomb in his shoe and another with a bomb in his underpants.
But no matter. “The improvement that many scientists favor,” Newsweek reports, “is one that has been made elsewhere including in China, France, Japan, Belgium, and the U.K. All have eliminated the need to store portions of used fuel. Instead, they reprocess the waste, a complex process that removes the remaining uranium from almost pure plutonium and other byproducts, and puts it back in the reactor to produce more power. `You’re actually destroying some waste by recycling it,’ says Denis Beller, a nuclear engineer at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.”
Recycling spent fuel – what a great idea! Wasn’t there something in the paper the other day about China developing a new recycling technology? Maybe we should give them a call. We once had a reprocessing effort going in this country, didn’t we? Then along came Jimmy Carter.
Read more at Newsweek
Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010
December 22, 2010
There was an entire generation of nuclear scientists that thought they were embracing the future in the 1970s and 1980s, only to see it all slip away in a wave of hysteria about the supposedly insurmountable problems. Now the Nuclear Renaissance is bringing some of them back.
Dr. Bernard Weinstein was part of the speakers’ bureau of the Nuclear Energy Institute from 1985 to 1995, trying to inform the public that nuclear was not as frightening as believed. Now an associate director of the Maguire Energy Institute at SMU, he has stepped up once again with an editorial in The Hill informing the incoming 212th Congress what everyone in the industry knows – “nuclear waste” is a non-problem.
“With reprocessing,” writes Weinstein, “a technology that was developed in the United States, valuable plutonium and uranium in spent fuel are removed and then chemically processed into a mixed-oxide fuel that can be used again in a reactor to generate additional electricity. Up to 95 percent of the spent fuel volume can be reprocessed, leaving only about 5 percent to decay in a few centuries. Importantly, reducing the volume of spent fuel through reprocessing would simplify the challenge of storage and disposal.” As it happens, Japan is just loading its first core of MOX fuel, recycled in France. If they can do it, why can’t we?
America lost a great asset when the first generation of nuclear engineers and scientists were shunted aside by the wave of anti-nuclear hysteria. It’s great to see some of them coming back. They’ll be needed.
Read more about it The Hill
Friday, November 5th, 2010
After sitting on the sidelines for months watching the rest of the world run up the score in the Nuclear Renaissance, the U.S. may be creeping back in the game.
An agreement signed between the U.S. and Japan this week will set up a "working group on international nuclear power cooperation,” according to this report in The Denki Shimbun (The Electric Daily News). The group will attempt to advise developing countries that are making plans to build their first nuclear reactors.
Japan, of course, is already established in the world market, with Toshiba’s Westinghouse and Mitsubishi as prime competitors. After losing to Korea in the bid to build four new reactors in the United Arab Emirates, the Japanese government encouraged all its nuclear competitors to join forces in making their next bids to developing countries. Hitachi and America’s General Electric have also joined forces in marketing GE’s ESBWR. As far as a general American effort to compete on the world market, however, there is none.
The new committee will concentrate on three areas: 1) infrastructural improvements to accommodate nuclear construction, 2) governmental support for U.S. and Japanese companies in these markets, and 3) international cooperation in nuclear fuel services.
The third concern – and the participation of the U.S. State Department in the talks – suggests that much of the emphasis will once again be on “non-proliferation,” which often translates as U.S. State Department officials telling other nations they can’t reprocess their spent fuel. The best way to handle spent fuel would be to set up reprocessing in this country and then volunteer to take spent fuel rods off other countries’ hands – as Russia is currently doing.
Absent any reprocessing facilities here, the best U.S. officials can do is scold other countries about trying to recycle their wastes – as we are currently doing with Korea. Hopefully, participation in the Japan-U.S. committee will convince American officials that the U.S. no longer holds the lead in nuclear technology and that, if anything, we are the ones who need assistance in developing a nuclear program.
Read more at Reuters