A new report from the Center for Nuclear Safety highlights the many challenges to securing the needed fuel for a nuclear facility.
The report, “Nuclear Waste: A Roadmap for a Safer, More Efficient Future,” says the United States needs to move to a clean energy future by building nuclear waste storage facilities to replace and reuse nuclear fuel.
“The nuclear waste industry is a crucial resource that can provide the fuel that will power our electric grid, but we also need to address the long-term consequences of radioactive emissions from nuclear power plants,” the report states.
“A nuclear waste site can be constructed on a landlocked location with a relatively low-risk location that does not need to be developed as a nuclear power plant site.
The cost of building such a facility can be reduced dramatically and, if built, it can help us reduce the cost of nuclear energy in the long run.”
The report cites several options for constructing a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant.
The most expensive option is to build the reactor in a saltwater pool.
The pool would then be heated and enriched to the high-level required to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons.
But the cost to build such a pool is prohibitively high.
A larger, more expensive facility could be constructed with a reactor at the surface, where there is no risk of contamination from water.
The alternative to such a site is a waste dump.
The idea of dumping radioactive waste at sea is a long-standing idea, and there is precedent for doing so.
A number of countries have abandoned plans for waste dumps and instead built waste-treatment facilities.
The new report recommends that we build a facility that uses existing waste streams in the United Kingdom.
“This project could be the key to reducing nuclear waste and its long-range environmental consequences,” the authors state.
“It would be feasible to build and operate a facility in the U.K., with the infrastructure and knowledge to safely dispose of radioactive waste.
It would also be possible to build nuclear waste-processing plants at sea in the ocean or on land, with a safe harbor and a low-level radioactive waste disposal facility on site.”
In the future, the report suggests we could use waste streams from existing nuclear reactors to make a reactor fuel.
This would reduce the costs associated with building a reprocessor, which could then be transported to a nuclear reprocession plant.
This project, the authors say, could also help us meet our commitment to the Paris climate agreement, which requires countries to make their nuclear fuel production, reprocessed fuel, and storage facilities as clean as possible.