Academic journal article Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy

Safety First

Academic journal article Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy

Safety First

Article excerpt

In "The Case Against Reprocessing," William Sailor correctly notes that an economic motivation for reprocessing spent fuel from nuclear power plants is not likely to arise as long as the cost of uranium remains relatively low ( FORUM, Summer 1999). Further, a return to reprocessing would be unlikely to help jump start the nuclear power industry.

While I concur with these conclusions, I would also argue that the economics of reprocessing is not the central issue. Since fuel accounts for only a small fraction of the total cost of nuclear power, the primary question is what type of nuclear infrastructure nations should maintain.

The United States chose to forgo reprocessing in the 1970s, not for economic reasons, but out of concern that reprocessing technology and infrastructure--key ingredients for nuclear weapons proliferation--would be dispersed widely around the world and that large-scale commerce in separated plutonium would increase risks of plutonium theft and diversion.

In the 1990s, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, we have been forced to deal with new types of proliferation risks that were largely unanticipated during the original reprocessing debate. Existing nuclear infrastructure and technical expertise in the United States permitted us to implement large training and technical exchanges to increase the safety of Soviet-design nuclear power plants and to initiate a large-scale, $14 billion program to purchase excess highly enriched uranium from Russian nuclear weapons. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.