Study Says Nuclear Fuel Recycling Makes Sense

Issue 9 and Volume 110.

A new study concludes that recycling nuclear fuel as part of a strategy in which a large scale integrated recycling plant complements a repository, such as the planned Yucca Mountain repository, could be an attractive option for solving the long-term used nuclear fuel management requirement of the U.S. nuclear power market.

The study, Economic Assessment of Used Nuclear Fuel Management in the United States, was conducted by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) for AREVA, whose U.S. operations are based in Maryland. BCG performed the study using decades of proprietary operational and financial data from AREVA’s nuclear recycling experience at the La Hague and Melox facilities in France.

The study shows that the economics of recycling and disposing of high level waste in Yucca Mountain are comparable to the economics of the targeted once-through U.S. fuel cycle, especially considering uncertainties that surround the nuclear fuel cycle, such as capital investment costs and uranium prices.

Dennis Spurgeon, U.S. assistant secretary for nuclear energy, says the study shows that current generation recycling technologies for used nuclear fuel are in an economic range that can be competitive. “This economic benchmark is useful as we work on advanced recycling technologies that make better use of our energy resources and reduce the space and time needed to store nuclear waste,” he said.