Part 1 of this series explored the historical context of the U.S. nuclear waste storage policy. Part II and Part III looked at the failed Salt Vault and Yucca Mountain projects, respectively. Part IV reviewed the legal and political fallout from the Yucca Mountain failure. In this final post, we review the past failed attempts to reprocess nuclear fuel in the U.S. and examine the global state-of-the-art reprocessing plants now operating or under construction.
Reprocessing and Recycling in the U.S.
The reprocessing of nuclear fuel first began in the U.S. in January 1943. The Bismuth Phosphate Precipitation Process was used for recovering macroscopic quantities of plutonium. The REDuction-OXidation (REDOX) process was the first successful solvent extraction process to recover both uranium and plutonium; it was further refined into the Plutonium and URanium EXtraction (PUREX) process, which has become the most common and fully commercialized liquid-liquid extraction process for the treatment of spent nuclear fuel (SNF).…
This post looks at the legislative history of the ill-fated Yucca Mountain repository and the formation of a committee to explore alternative storage sites (again). In Part IV, we will look at some of the legal and political repercussions of Yucca Mountain’s failure. Finally, in Part V, we explore failed attempts to reprocess nuclear fuel in the U.S. and examine the global state-of-the-art reprocessing plants now operating or under construction.
The Retrievable Surface Storage Facility
The AEC announced plans (circa May/June 1972) to construct an engineered, at-grade Retrievable Surface Storage Facility (RSSF) to be used until a permanent geological repository would be available. The plan was to locate the RSSF at an AEC or federal site in the western U.S.…
Last week I was on John Stossel’s (most excellent) new show on Fox Business News to discuss energy policy — in particular, popular myths that Republicans have about energy markets. One of the topics I touched upon was nuclear power.
My argument was the same that I have offered in print: Nuclear power is a swell technology but, given the high construction costs associated with building nuclear reactors, it’s a technology that cannot compete in free markets without a massive amount of government support. If one believes in free markets, then one should look askance at such policies.
As expected, the atomic cult has taken offense.
Regulation to Blame?
Now, it is reasonable to argue that excessive regulatory oversight has driven up the cost of nuclear power and that a “better” regulatory regime would reduce costs. …