Study Rejects Bush's Plan to Recycle Nuclear Fuel Internationally

By Steven Mufson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A new National Academy of Sciences study has dealt a blow to the Bush administration's plan for an international nuclear fuel recycling program, declaring that the program was not ready for commercial development and that it needed additional research.

A 17-member National Academy group, with two dissenters, supported the idea of recycling spent fuel from nuclear power plants. But that majority wrote that the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership "should not go forward and that it should be replaced by a less aggressive research program."

Deputy Energy Secretary Clay Sell criticized the report's authors, distinguished scientists and consultants. "I think the authors of this report are actually quite comfortable with the status quo research-and-development agenda, and this administration is not," he said.

The report cited technical and economic obstacles. "There is no economic justification to go forward with this program at anything approaching commercial scale," the report said. The Energy Department "claims that the GNEP is being implemented to save the United States nearly a decade in time and a substantial amount of money. In view of the technical challenges involved, the committee believes that the opposite will likely be true."

It also said "significant technical problems remain to be solved."

The Bush administration has had trouble persuading Congress to appropriate money for GNEP, announced in early 2006. The administration wanted nearly $395 million for the program this year but is getting $167 million.

Seventeen foreign governments have said they would participate in the reprocessing program. It envisions a handful of countries, including the United States and Russia, supplying other nations with reactor fuel and reprocessing their used fuel.

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