SHARM EL SHEIKH, EGYPT, Nov. 10 (Reuters) – Recycling radioactive waste from nuclear power plants poses security and cost challenges, but if the United States goes that route, the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) ) can monitor the process. the head of the IAEA said this week.
The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden sees the expansion of nuclear energy as important in addressing climate change-related emissions in the world’s second-largest greenhouse gas emitter, and is promoting recycling as domestic nuclear fuel. We see it as a smart way to expedite supply and reduce waste. .
The US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) aims to develop 12 projects to recycle spent nuclear fuel. Last month, he gave companies, including General Electric Company’s development arm, GE Research, $38 million for reprocessing.
When asked about US reprocessing investigations, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi downplayed the possibility that it could soon become a reality.
“Not many people are serious about reprocessing,” Grossi said in an interview with Reuters at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt late Wednesday.
“Reprocessing is a very difficult technology that requires a lot of infrastructure.” Grossi added, “Of course there are angles of diffusion.”
Reprocessing is the conversion of plutonium and uranium contained in waste into new nuclear fuel. Proliferation experts warn that the practice could become a new target for extremists looking to create raw nuclear weapons. France practices reprocessing, but the U.S. supply chain could be longer and more vulnerable, experts say.
Former US President Jimmy Carter stopped reprocessing nuclear waste in 1977, citing proliferation concerns. Former President Ronald Reagan lifted the moratorium in 1981, but high costs prevented the factory from opening.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Energy said the department “explores all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle at the research and development stage to improve fuel performance, reduce waste generation, limit proliferation risks, and beyond research to the IAEA’s ongoing working with us to move nuclear power forward.”
Grossi said if the US pursues reprocessing, the IAEA will monitor to make sure it is safe.
“No one will reprocess without the IAEA’s involvement,” he said, noting that North Korea’s nuclear waste recycling is an exception.
The United States has spent billions of dollars over the decades on projects to store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. However, former President Barack Obama closed Yucca after local opposition. The waste is now stored in pools and steel-and-concrete casks at nuclear reactors across the country.
Grossi said nuclear power is attracting increasing interest from countries and companies looking to reduce emissions and increase energy supplies. However, he added that he did not believe the expansion of the industry would increase the threat of proliferation or accidents.
“Maybe we have to fight to get more budget, but I don’t know. Countries are very strict about it,” Grossi said. “But it’s not a technical issue for us.”
Reported by Richard Valdmanis. Additional reporting and writing by Timothy Gardner, Washington.Edited by Christian Schmolinger
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