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Oak Ridge National Laboratory has released a recent study which has determined that if and when the US ever decides to actually pursue the technology to recycle nuclear waste, it will take 20 years to develop. Based on this knowledge they have suggested that the current stockpile of spent nuclear fuel should be buried without any thought as to its retrieval in the future.
Officials from Oak Ridge involved in the report said that, “based on the technical assessment, about 68,450 metric tons or about 98 percent of the total current inventory by mass, can proceed to permanent disposal without the need to ensure retrievability for reuse or research purposes.” The remaining two percent will be used for research into recycling and storage technologies.
The Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, co-chaired by Steven Chu, also believes that the means to recycle nuclear waste is too far off for any consideration at the moment. “No currently available or reasonably foreseeable reactor and fuel cycle technology developments—including advances in reprocessing and recycling technologies—have the potential to fundamentally alter the waste management challenges the nation confronts over at least the next several decades, if not longer.”
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Although they did add that it was “premature for the United States to commit, as a matter of policy, to ‘closing’ the nuclear fuel cycle given the large uncertainties that exist about the merits and commercial viability of different fuel cycle and technology options.”
Recycling is often thought of as a perfect means of dealing with nuclear waste, producing more energy and making a more efficient use of the fuel, yet anti-nuclear activists are readily against reprocessing technology.
Mali Martha Lightfoot, the executive director of the Helen Caldicott Foundation, says that, “recycling is a euphemism for reprocessing which is one of the worst polluters of the atmosphere and the ocean, and is a direct conduit to proliferation. It is not really a solution to anything except how can the industry get more of our money. It also ups the ante for reactor accident danger, as in the case of Fukushima, because MOX fuel has plutonium in it.”
By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com
Joao is a writer for Oilprice.com