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Reprocessing in the U.S.: A Waste of Time. Edwin S. Lyman Senior Staff Scientist Union of Concerned Scientists July 20, 2009. MISLEADING CLAIMS.

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reprocessing in the u s a waste of time

Reprocessing in the U.S.:A Waste of Time

Edwin S. Lyman

Senior Staff Scientist

Union of Concerned Scientists

July 20, 2009

misleading claims
  • AREVA and other supporters of reprocessing have claimed that it simplifies nuclear waste disposal, and in particular reduces the volume of waste by factors of four to five
  • However, this is not consistent with information provided by Argonne National Laboratory, Energy Solutions and even AREVA’s own data
waste streams from reprocessing
  • High-level waste (HLW)
    • liquid, highly radioactive waste that must be solidified for safe storage and disposal
    • Other highly active process waste streams
  • Low-level waste (LLW) classes A, B and C
  • Greater-than-class-C LLW
    • Contains more than 100 curies per cubic meter of certain “transuranic” isotopes (plutonium-239, etc)
  • Reprocessed uranium (RepU)
    • Far less desirable than natural uranium for fuel fabrication
  • Plutonium with or without other “actinides (neptunium, americium, curium)
    • Will require long-term storage even if an effective system for “transmuting” these isotopes is developed
  • 300-year storage of cesium and strontium (if separated from HLW)
waste volume increases from reprocessing
  • According to Argonne National Laboratory data cited in the DOE GNEP PEIS, for the fast reactor “recycle” option, after 50 years
      • Cumulative volume of all waste 7 times that of direct disposal
      • Cumulative volume of greater-than-class C low-level waste is about 160 times greater than that of direct disposal option
      • Volume of reprocessed uranium comparable to volume of spent fuel
      • High-level waste volume only 25% less than initial spent fuel volume
other industry estimates
  • Both Electricité de France and Energy Solutions recently presented similar data
    • EdF: reprocessing of 850 metric tons of spent fuel (380 cubic meters) annually produces 110 to 130 cubic meters of vitrified HLW and 122 cubic meters of intermediate level waste (ILW) from direct fuel processing only
      • Associated volume reduction: about 36%
      • Simple consolidation of spent fuel rods can do better
    • Energy Solutions: total volume increases 7-fold
electricit de france data from michel debes nrc fuel cycle information exchange june 2009
Electricité de France data (from Michel Debes, NRC Fuel Cycle Information Exchange, June 2009)
  • The 7-fold increase in total waste volume from reprocessing would make waste management and disposal far worse overall because
    • Low-level waste disposal options are limited
    • No policy yet on requirements for GTCC LLW disposal
    • Impact on capacity of high-level waste repository is marginal