Bush plans to IMPORT spent nuclear fuel
- From: "Joe S." <anon@xxxxxxxx>
- Date: Thu, 26 Jan 2006 00:08:02 -0500
Damn, we don't even have a place to dump spent fuel from our own reactors
and this clown wants to import spent fuel.
Nuclear Energy Plan Would Use Spent Fuel
By Peter Baker and Dafna Linzer
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, January 26, 2006; Page A01
The Bush administration is preparing a plan to expand civilian nuclear
energy at home and abroad while taking spent fuel from foreign countries and
reprocessing it, in a break with decades of U.S. policy, according to U.S.
and foreign officials briefed on the initiative.
The United States has adamantly opposed reprocessing spent fuel from
civilian reactors since the 1970s because it would produce material that
could be used in nuclear weapons. But the Bush program, envisioned as a
multi-decade effort dubbed the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, would
invest research money to develop technologies intended to avoid any such
risk, the officials said.
The program has been the subject of intense debate within the
administration, and although a consensus has been reached about the
direction, a senior official said it will not be ready for Bush to announce
in his State of the Union address Tuesday. Even the discussion has stirred
concerns among nuclear specialists and some members of Congress who consider
it an expensive venture that relies on unproven concepts and could increase
the danger of proliferation.
The notion of accepting other countries' spent fuel at a time when the
United States has had trouble disposing of its own nuclear waste could also
prove highly controversial.
But a small initial investment of money has been programmed into the
administration's federal budget plan to be sent to Capitol Hill in two
weeks. Senate Energy Committee Chairman Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.) said
yesterday that he expects the White House to send accompanying legislation
"I expect a draft bill from the administration next month on spent nuclear
fuel," he said. "I will introduce that bill on behalf of the president, hold
a hearing on it and mark it up in committee this spring. I hope it will
include a nuclear fuel recycling component. If it doesn't, well, I have been
a career-long proponent of nuclear fuel recycling and I intend to pursue it
Advocates use the word "recycling" to describe an advanced form of
reprocessing that, instead of separating plutonium that can be used in bombs
from spent fuel, would produce a mixed-oxide fuel too radioactive for
terrorists to handle. Such fuel, called MOX, could be used in special
reactors that exist in France but not in the United States.
Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, a
nonprofit think tank that studies environmental and security issues, said
U.N. nuclear inspectors would not make a distinction between that material
or the kind of separated plutonium the world is worried Iran might get.
"We think they are putting a fig leaf on it by calling it
proliferation-resistant and saying that it's not really reprocessing, so
concerns about proliferation risks won't be valid," he said. "But if we
develop something that we call proliferation-resistant and it really isn't,
then other countries are going to claim rights to this technology. If it's
really proliferation-resistant, would we let Iran have it?"
The fuel proposal is part of a broader push by the president for domestic
and global nuclear energy. With worldwide energy demands on the rise and
U.S. reliance on foreign oil increasing, Bush has held out nuclear power as
a solution that will not affect global warming. "We ought to have more
nuclear power in the United States of America," Bush said in a speech last
week in Loudoun County. "It's clean, it's renewable, it's safer than it ever
was in the past."
In a modern version of the Atoms for Peace program during President Dwight
D. Eisenhower's administration, officials said the administration envisions
helping developing countries build small nuclear reactors that would produce
about 5 to 10 percent of the energy generated by a typical reactor now on
line in the United States. Some in Congress believe a global nuclear energy
program is aimed at aiding the U.S. effort to build an alliance with India,
which is eager for U.S. civilian nuclear technology.
Two senior U.S. officials traveled last week to several countries, including
Japan and Russia, to brief them about the initiative. At one session,
according to a source who was present, the administration officials said the
United States has finally moved on from the Three Mile Island nuclear
incident in 1979 that paralyzed the industry for years.
Bush has been briefed on the plan but has not given his final approval while
diplomats consult with other nations, a senior administration official said.
Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman hinted at the initiative in a November
speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
"The world will need much more energy in coming decades," he said, citing
projections showing global demand increasing as much as 50 percent by 2025.
"How do we meet this demand? How do we do it in a way that leaves all the
nations of the earth safer and more secure? The search for answers to these
questions increasingly points in one direction: nuclear energy."
Rather than just provide nuclear fuel to other countries that want to have
their own reactors, Bodman suggested, the United States would also take back
the fuel once it has been spent. "In the longer term, we see fuel-cycle
states offering cradle-to-grave fuel-cycle services, leasing fuel for power
reactors and then taking it back for reprocessing and ultimate disposition."
The main purpose for reprocessing spent fuel is to extract the radioactive
plutonium within it and use that to fuel a reactor. But the process is
considered dangerous, and many countries gave up civilian reprocessing years
Officials briefed on the Bush plan said $250 million -- less than requested
by the Energy Department -- will be included in the fiscal 2007 budget in a
down payment on what they expect to be billions of dollars of spending.
Among other things, it would pay for a pilot plant, possibly at the
department's Savannah River facility in South Carolina, to test chemical
reprocessing. If the program goes forward as planned, the domestic nuclear
industry stands to reap hundreds of millions of dollars.
U.S. officials said they are interested in developing reactors that would
not produce spent fuel that could be accessed by recipient countries. One
model is a self-contained reactor that cannot be opened, is never refueled
and is removed when it runs out of energy. Another, known as a pebble-bed
reactor, has been under development in Germany and South Africa and likewise
would not have fuel that could be used for weapons.