Archive for the ‘reprocessing’ Category

Deep waste burial a better solution than the much touted PRISM and MOX

November 19, 2015

Another option on the table is PRISM. Developed by GE Hitachi (GEH), PRISM is a sodium-cooled fast reactor that uses a metallic fuel alloy of zirconium, uranium, and plutonium. GEH claims PRISM would reduce the plutonium stockpile quicker than MOX and be the most efficient solution for the UK. The problem is, despite being based on established technology, a PRISM reactor has yet to be built, and the UK is understandably a little reluctant to commit in this direction. Seen as something of a gamble, it remains in the running alongside the currently more favoured MOX option.

Amid all the uncertainty, one thing is for sure. Regardless of what decision is taken, a proportion of the plutonium will end up as waste and will need to be safely disposed of.

Unlike MOX and PRISM, immobilisation has no prominent industry backers. In comparison to exploiting the plutonium for our energy needs, there is no great fortune to be made from disposing of it safely. But immobilising the entire plutonium stockpile may in fact be a more economically sound approach than reprocessing

Sellafield plutonium a multi-layered problem, The Engineer UK,   6 November 2015 | By Andrew Wade   “……..It takes somewhere in the region of 5-10kg of plutonium to make a nuclear weapon, so 140 tons is a slightly worrying amount to have sitting in a concrete shed in Cumbria. While everyone at the press conference was at pains to point out that there are no major safety concerns with the current storage, it is widely accepted that a long-term plan needs to be formulated. This, however, is where things get tricky. The potential energy of the plutonium if converted to nuclear fuel is massive, but there are several competing technologies vying for endorsement, none of which are well proven as financially viable.

Top of the list – and the government’s current preference – is for some application that uses mixed oxide fuel, or MOX. MOX is made by blending plutonium with natural or depleted uranium to create a fuel that is similar, but not identical, to the low-enriched uranium used in most nuclear plants today. MOX can be – and in several European countries is – used in thermal reactors alongside uranium. But despite past concerns, there is in reality no shortage of uranium today, so no huge need to supplement it with MOX in current reactors. Where MOX could in fact lead to greater efficiencies is in fast reactors, but these are costly and difficult to operate, and would not make economic sense unless the cost of uranium fell.

To complicate matters further, developing MOX is by no means a straightforward process. A Sellafield MOX Plant was completed in 1997, didn’t actually begin operation until 2001, and was closed in 2011 after a poor performance record that saw it deliver just 5 tons of MOX in its first five years. To put that it into context, it was designed with a capacity for 120 tons a year. Total construction and operating cost was around £1.2bn. While France has had a degree of success in producing MOX, construction on the US’s MOX production facility at the Savannah River Site was recently pushed back a decade, and may not be in operation until 2033.

Another option on the table is PRISM. Developed by GE Hitachi (GEH), PRISM is a sodium-cooled fast reactor that uses a metallic fuel alloy of zirconium, uranium, and plutonium. GEH claims PRISM would reduce the plutonium stockpile quicker than MOX and be the most efficient solution for the UK. The problem is, despite being based on established technology, a PRISM reactor has yet to be built, and the UK is understandably a little reluctant to commit in this direction. Seen as something of a gamble, it remains in the running alongside the currently more favoured MOX option.

Amid all the uncertainty, one thing is for sure. Regardless of what decision is taken, a proportion of the plutonium will end up as waste and will need to be safely disposed of. One of the speakers at the press conference was Professor Neil Hyatt from the University of Sheffield. A materials science specialist, Hyatt is currently developing an immobilisation technique that can be used to render the plutonium unsuitable for weaponisation, allowing it to be more safely stored in the longer term. Using a form of hot isostatic pressing (HIP), the process mimics the formation of ancient minerals by using extreme heat and pressure to lock the plutonium inside ceramic based wasteforms.

According to Hyatt, the HIP technology is about a decade away from operation. Unlike MOX and PRISM, immobilisation has no prominent industry backers. In comparison to exploiting the plutonium for our energy needs, there is no great fortune to be made from disposing of it safely. But immobilising the entire plutonium stockpile may in fact be a more economically sound approach than reprocessing, says Hyatt. Some see this as madness, putting all that potential energy beyond the use of future generations. Others believe the technology needed to exploit that energy is decades away, by which point fusion and renewables will be better options. Just about the only thing the NDA could say with certainty, was that the right decision is more important than a quick one. We wait with bated breath.  http://www.theengineer.co.uk/blog/sellafield-plutonium-a-multi-layered-problem/1021371.article 

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MOX nuclear reprocessing costs twice as much as deep burial of wastes

September 4, 2015

Disposal beats MOX in US comparison  http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/WR-Disposal-beats-MOX-in-US-comparison-2108151.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter  21 August 2015

America is reconsidering how it will dispose of 34 tonnes of plutonium as the previous plan involving a MOX plant has been said to be twice as costly as a dilution and disposal option in a leaked Department of Energy (DOE) report.

The plutonium arises from a June 2000 nuclear weapons reduction agreement with Russia under which both countries would put 34 tonnes of plutonium beyond military use. Russia opted to use its plutonium as fuel for fast reactors generating power at Beloyarsk.

The USA, meanwhile, decided to build a mixed-oxide (MOX) nuclear fuel plant at Savannah River, where the plutonium would be mixed with uranium and made into fuel for light-water reactors. The design is similar to Areva’s Melox facility at Marcoule, but modified to handle metal plutonium ‘pits’ from US weapons and their conversion from metal to plutonium oxide. It is this part of the process that has been problematic. Construction started in 2007 with an estimated cost of $4.9 billion but work ran into serious trouble before being ‘zeroed’ in the DOE’s 2014 budget, putting development on ice.

The Union of Concerned Scientists yesterday published what it said was an unreleased DOE report that compared the cost of completing the MOX plant to other options. Use in fast reactors was considered briefly, but with this technology not readily available in the near term, the prime comparison was against a ‘dilution and disposal’ option which would see the plutonium mixed with inert materials and disposed of in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or WIPP, in New Mexico.

Despite being 60% built, the MOX plant still needs some 15 years of construction work, said the leaked report, and then about three years of commissioning. Once in operation the plant would work through the plutonium over about 10 years with this 28-year program to cost $700-800 million per year – a total of $19.6-22.4 billion on top of what has already been spent. Not only is the price tag very high, but the timescale is too long: the report said this would not meet the disposal timeframe agreed with Russia.

The cost of the MOX plant could not be mitigated by income from sales of the MOX fuel because the regulatory process to gain approval to use MOX would be too burdensome for a commercial utility. The report said “it may be unlikely” that even a utility in a regulated market where fuel costs are passed on to consumers would “bear the risk of MOX fuel even if it is free”.

Dilution and disposal would cost $400 million per year, said the report, “over a similar duration” as MOX, working out at close to half the cost. Other advantages for dilution and disposal are that it requires no new facilities to be created or decommissioned after use, although the increase in WIPP disposal means “it may eventually become desirable to explore expansion of WIPP’s capacity” beyond currently legislated limits. This unique geologic disposal facility was said to be of “tremendous value to both DOE and the State of New Mexico”.

USA finally entombs its Experimental Breeder Reactor-II

July 31, 2015

USA’s Experimental Breeder Reactor-II now permanently entombed, World Nuclear News 01 July 2015 The main clean-up contractor at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Idaho Site, has entombed an historic nuclear reactor in place and treated the reactor’s remaining sodium coolant….CH2M-WG, Idaho, LLC (CWI) said yesterday that crews with the Decontamination and Decommissioning (D&D) Program recently completed pouring more than 3400 cubic yards of concrete grout into the basement of the Experimental Breeder Reactor-II (EBR-II) building to fill in any remaining void spaces and effectively entomb the reactor.

Workers also removed and treated the last of the sodium coolant from the reactor’s nine heat exchangers. The exchangers were used to cool the liquid metal and direct the steam to a generating turbine to produce electricity when the reactor was operating.

The EBR-II was the basis of the US Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) program…….. The reactor was shut down in 1994 and its fuel was removed and transported to another site facility for safe storage.

The DOE grouted the reactor in place instead of removing it to protect workers from industrial hazards and radiological risks, CWI said. Crews filled the reactor vessel with grout over two years ago and recently completed the remainder of grouting at the facility under CWI’s contract.

Nuclear reprocessing does not live up to the deceitful hype about it

July 31, 2015

Nuclear Reprocessing Pay more, risk more, get little,
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 21 May 15  Hui Zhang
“……
 Lately, advocates for fast neutron reactors have been arguing that breeders and reprocessing can reduce the long-term hazards associated with burial of high-level waste. But these long-term benefits are offset by short-term risks and costs.

For example, breeder advocates argue that the risks surrounding leakage in geological repositories could be reduced if all the long-lived isotopes of plutonium and other transuranics contained in spent fuel were transmuted (or fissioned), thus significantly reducing the doses of radioactivity that could escape due to any leakage. But studies show that long-lived fission and activation products in spent fuel—not isotopes that could be fissioned through breeders and reprocessing—dominate the radioactivity doses that leakage could release.

Plutonium, in fact, is quite insoluble in deep underground water. So, reprocessing delivers no obvious long-term benefits in reducing leaked doses of radioactivity—but it does involve routine releases of long-lived radioactive gases from spent fuel. Reprocessing also increases the risk that tanks for high-level liquid waste might explode.

(In a similar vein, advocates for fast neutron reactors argue that reprocessing, by reducing the need to mine uranium, can reduce human radiation exposure. But any such benefit is canceled out because plutonium reprocessing and recycling themselves expose workers and the public to radiation. In short, the net effects may well be negative.)

Meanwhile, all reprocessing and fast neutron reactor programs currently under consideration significantly increase the economic costs of nuclear energy. This means that nuclear decision makers must choose between achieving rather insignificant reductions in the long-term hazards associated with nuclear waste—and achieving short-term gains in the areas of safety, security, human health, and the environment.

The choice seems rather clear-cut. The US National Academy of Sciences concluded in 1996, based on a review of the costs and benefits of reprocessing and fast neutron reactor programs, that “none of the dose reductions seem large enough to warrant the expense and additional operational risk of transmutation.” That assessment remains valid today…….http://thebulletin.org/reprocessing-poised-growth-or-deaths-door/pay-more-risk-more-get-little

Deep bore disposal of waste may signal the end for nuclear reprocessing

July 31, 2015

successfully developing deep-hole disposal techniques would be a great development for society

it could be devastating for next-generation nuclear developers attempting to utilize existing used nuclear fuel stockpiles

Why Sending Nuclear Waste to the Center of the Earth is Bad News for General Electric,Motley Fool  By Maxx Chatsko   April 30, 2015 “………the U.S. Department of Energy is set to experiment with a technique to dispose of nuclear wastes by drilling 3-mile boreholes into the Earth’s crust and then, well, dropping radioactive materials into their geological tombs. For good

………Fergus Gibb, the technique’s pioneer, told The Engineer that each bore hole, measuring roughly 3 miles deep and 2 feet wide, would cost just a few tens of millions of dollars to drill. …

Gibb said about six boreholes would be sufficient to store all of the United Kingdom’s existing high-level wastes and would take just five years to drill, fill, and seal. That last part is a bit trickier, although the processes have been studied, and solutions have been developed or are in the works. You can read the details on your own…..
the DOE, which is conducting a trial with Sandia National Laboratory to take place in late 2016. If successful, the DOE will move forward to dispose of “small capsules of highly radioactive cesium and strontium being held at the Hanford nuclear facility in Washington State,” which contributed to weapons research during the Manhattan Project. Nearly 40% of the facility’s waste could fit in one 3-mile-deep borehole.
A successful outcome would be great news in terms of safely storing nuclear wastes, but it’s a bit of a mixed bag for investors….

Although there is no long-term plan for disposing of nuclear waste, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has always been preparing for the inevitable decommissioning of nuclear power plants. Thus, every nuclear power plant in the United States has been required to pay into the Nuclear Decommissioning Trust, or NDT, at a rate of $0.001 per kilowatt hour of electricity to fund future closure and waste disposal expenses.

At the end of 2013, the Trust had a balance of $58 billion. It’s no Apple war chest, but it’s impressive nonetheless.

Of course, when regulators set the massive balance requirement decades ago, it wasn’t based on any expected expense, just with the expectation that decommissioning would be expensive. If something as simple and low-cost as deep-hole disposal becomes a suitable option, the NDT will have more than enough funds to cover it — and the excess will be redistributed to companies that have been paying their fair share over the decades…..

It’s not all good news. General Electric has been hard at work resurrecting designs for a Generation IV small modular reactor, or SMR, called PRISM. Engineering and design work is still being completed, but the sodium-cooled reactor will be capable of consuming traditional nuclear fuels, plutonium fuels, and used nuclear wastes — the same materials the DOE wants to bury deep underground.

One of the major value propositions for PRISM, aside from its low-cost footprint and supercharged power capacity, was its ability to consume spent nuclear wastes. General Electric has been pursuing the United Kingdom’s plutonium stockpile for the flagship deployment of the technology, but the opportunity to build SMRs at existing or decommissioned nuclear power plants was tremendous. If deep-hole disposal proves successful and emerges as the method of choice, General Electric could miss out a critical market for its latest atomic thrust.

What does it mean for investors?
From a completely neutral standpoint, successfully developing deep-hole disposal techniques would be a great development for society. We’ve invested hundreds of billions of dollars in nuclear energy technologies — a monumental achievement in itself — without developing adequate solutions to store the unfortunate byproducts……..

it could be devastating for next-generation nuclear developers attempting to utilize existing used nuclear fuel stockpiles…….. PRISM does have the potential to emerge as a leading revenue source for the company and investors should its use become heavily adopted. That being said, in the long run investors in GE may have to take one for the team……..http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2015/04/30/sorry-general-electric-the-doe-may-send-nuclear-wa.aspx

Nuclear reprocessing a risky, expensive and long journey for China

April 28, 2015

Reprocessing in China: A long, risky journey, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, April 15  Hui Zhang“………Should China continue pursuing its plans for fast breeder reactors and commercialized reprocessing? Good reasons exist for avoiding this course of action. First, because most of China’s power reactors are newly built, Beijing will face little pressure over the next two decades to reduce its spent fuel burden. And spent fuel can be stored safely, at low cost, in dry casks—or disposed of safely in a deep geological repository.

Second, China faces no shortage of uranium resources for the foreseeable future. The nation’s identified resources more than tripled between 2003 and 2012, to 265,500 metric tons from 77,000 metric tons. China’s potential uranium reserves amount to more than 2 million tons. Beijing in recent times has also secured huge overseas uranium resources—about three times as large as its own identified uranium reserves. More such reserves could easily be added.

In any event, the cost of uranium accounts for only a small percentage of the cost of power that reactors generate. Simply put, the cost of uranium will not increase in the foreseeable future to levels that would justify the cost of reprocessing and breeder reactors. To the extent that China is concerned about potential disruptions in its uranium supply, it could easily and inexpensively establish a “strategic” uranium stockpile.

China should carefully examine the experiences of nations that have launched large reprocessing programs and built demonstration breeder reactors in the expectation that the commercialization of these reactors would follow. Commercialization did not follow in those countries—but huge expenses were incurred for cleaning up reprocessing sites and disposing of separated plutonium. For China, there is no urgent need to go down this risky road.

Plutonium recycling is much more expensive, and much less safe and secure, than operating light water reactors with a once-through fuel cycle. As for nuclear waste, dry cask storage is a safe, flexible, and low-cost option that can postpone for decades the need either to reprocess spent fuel or to dispose of it directly—allowing time for technology to develop. China has no convincing rationale for rushing to build commercial-scale reprocessing facilities or plutonium breeder reactors. http://thebulletin.org/reprocessing-poised-growth-or-deaths-door8185

China’s nuclear reprocessing project is beset with problems

April 28, 2015

Reprocessing in China: A long, risky journey, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists,  Hui Zhang , April 15  Since 1983, a closed fuel cycle has been an official element of China’s nuclear energy policy. According to proponents, plutonium reprocessing and breeder reactors will allow full utilization of China’s uranium resources, drastically reduce the volume of radioactive waste that must be stored in an underground repository, and establish a way to dispense with the spent fuel accumulating in China’s reactor pools.

But Beijing’s attempts to develop commercially viable reprocessing facilities and breeder reactors have been afflicted with technological difficulties, serious delays, and cost overruns. At this point—especially taking into account China’s ample uranium resources and its easy access to additional resources abroad—it appears very doubtful that reprocessing and fast reactors are the proper way forward for China’s nuclear energy sector.

Not according to plan………..

Parallel with development of the pilot reprocessing plant, China has been working to establish commercially viable plutonium breeder reactors. According to a plan in place until 2013, development of breeder reactors was to be a three-stage process. The first stage was to complete a project known as the China Experimental Fast Reactor. The second stage would involve building, by about 2020, a few demonstration fast reactors. Finally, commercialized fast reactors would be deployed around 2030. Progress always ran far behind schedule.

The China Experimental Fast Reactor is a sodium-cooled experimental fast reactor using technology developed for Russia’s BN-600 reactor. The project, with a planned capacity of 20 megawatts, was approved in 1995. Construction began in 2000. As with the pilot reprocessing plant, the experimental fast reactor encountered many difficulties during construction. Capital cost estimates had to adjusted twice, with each estimate double the previous one. The reactor went critical in July 2010 and, by July 2011, 40 percent of its full power was incorporated into the grid. The reactor, however, was online for only 26 hours during the remainder of 2011, and it produced the equivalent of just one full power-hour. Not until December 2014 did the reactor manage to operate at full capacity for 72 hours. So 19 years passed between project approval and operation at full capacity.

As for the second stage of the pre-2013 plan, CNNC in 2009 signed an agreement with Russia’s Rosatom to jointly construct two copies of Russia’s BN-800 fast neutron reactor in China. But Beijing has not officially approved the project. As with the French reprocessing plant, Chinese experts complain that Russia is demanding too high a price. It is not clear when or if the project will go forward. Instead, CNNC in 2013 began focusing on the development of the indigenous 600-megawatt China Fast Reactor (CFR-600). The start of construction is envisioned for 2017, with operations to commence in 2023—but the government has not approved the project yet.

Experts from CNNC have also, since 2013, urged the development of China’s first commercial fast reactor—a 1,000-megawatt reactor based on experience gained from the CFR-600. But CNNC expert Gu Zhongmao—an advocate of the closed fuel cycle—said at a recent workshop on nuclear energy in East Asia that “China needs at least another 20 to 30 years of effort before commercialization of fast reactor energy systems, and there are so many uncertainties ahead. It is beyond our ability to draw a clear picture 20 years ahead.”…………. http://thebulletin.org/reprocessing-poised-growth-or-deaths-door8185

 

USA Energy Secretary Moniz should hold French company AREVA accountable for the MOX plant messr

April 28, 2015

$30+billion Plutonium (Pu) Fuel Project, Good for France; Bad for America: AREVA-MOX Ça Pue! Pe-yoo!  Minimg Awareness, 5 Apr 15 [Recall that Areva is 89.9% French State owned and would be long gone if it weren’t for French taxpayers keeping it afloat. Furthermore, Areva has been under police investigation for years in France due to what is known as the Uramin scandal. After the French State the largest shareholder is Kuwait (Kuwait Investment Authority at 4.8%.]

From Savannah River Site Watch:
Now, we’re being told the real reason for continuing construction of the $12.7 MOX plant at SRS – “it’s good for France!” Part of DOE’s foreign aid program fostered by Senator MOX….
French ambassador impressed with MOX
Aiken Standard, March 17, 2015,

We all know that with the gracious assistance of big-spender Senator Lindsey Graham that the bankrupt company AREVA has thrived on the transfer of US tax payer money into their coffers and are getting desperate as their plans for reprocessing of commercial spent fuel in the US have gone down the drain.

“We want to save the jobs in South Carolina because it’s good for the state, he (Wilson) believes it’s good for the U.S. and to me, it’s good for France,” Araud said. (Gerard Araud, France’s Ambassador to the United States)


“The MOX facility is being designed by AREVA, a French company that is also the parent company to the MOX contractor, CB&I-AREVA MOX Services. Gilles Rousseau, the chief operating officer for the contractor, expressed his gratitude for having Araud on site.

[…]

Business at its Ugly Usual at DOE: As of April 4, 2015, there is No Accountability to the Tax-Paying Public for the U.S. DOE’s Grossly Mismanaged $30+-billion Plutonium Fuel (MOX) Project, a Textbook Case of Big Government’s Inability to Manage a Costly, Complex Project. When will Secretary of Energy Moniz and Congress act to hold those responsible accountable?

As DOE spins out of control in its management of large projects, the MOX coverup drags on and on and on. When will there be any accountability for the failed MOX project?

SRS Watch requested in a letter hand delivered to US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz on July 29, 2014 that he “Take immediate steps to hold managers in DOE, NNSA and Shaw AREVA MOX Services accountable for the massive cost overruns and schedule delays associated with MOX project.”.http://www.srswatch.org/uploads/2/7/5/8/27584045/letter_to_moniz_from_srs_watch_july_28_2014.pdf

Will Secretary Moniz act responsibly and fulfill his obligations as a public servant? Will he hold specific individuals accountable and make sure that their glaringly inadequate abilities in managing the MOX boondoggle are not used elsewhere in DOE? Let us know who you think must be held accountable: srswatch@gmail.com https:// ……….miningawareness.wordpress.com/2015/04/05/30billion-plutonium-pu-fuel-project-good-for-france-bad-for-america-areva-mox-ca-pue-pe-yoo/

 

Rokkasho could be a boon for terrorists

February 2, 2015

After spending tens of billions of dollars and decades on breeder-related programs, Tom Cochran said, countries find it hard to pull the plug.

“You have an entrenched bureaucracy and an entrenched research and development community and commercial interests invested in breeder technology, and these guys don’t go away,” Cochran said. “They’re believers … and they’re not going to give up. The really true believers don’t give up.”……..

“Stealing a weapon is too hard,” Cochran said. “But there is no big risk in fuel assemblies, or in taking things from a bulk handling facility that can be used to make weapons.” In this view, Rokkasho is a kind of big-box store for would-be nuclear terrorists.

A World Awash in a Nuclear Explosive? TruthOut,  19 March 2014 12:24 By Douglas Birch and R. Jeffrey SmithCenter for Public Integrity | Report Washington — A generation after Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the world is rediscovering the attractions of nuclear power to curb the warming pollution of carbon fuels. And so a new industry focused on plutonium-based nuclear fuel has begun to take shape in the far reaches of Asia, with ambitions to spread elsewhere — and some frightening implications, if Thomas Cochran is correct.

A Washington-based physicist and nuclear contrarian, Cochran helped kill a vast plutonium-based nuclear industrial complex back in the 1970s, and now he’s at it again — lecturing at symposia, standing up at official meetings, and confronting nuclear industry representatives with warnings about how commercializing plutonium will put the public at enormous risk.

Where the story ends isn’t clear. But the stakes are large.

The impetus for Cochran’s urgent new campaign — supported by a growing cadre of arms control and proliferation experts — is a seemingly puzzling decision by Japan to ready a new $22 billion plutonium production plant for operation as early as October.

The plant will provide fuel for scores of special reactors resembling those canceled in America a generation ago. Critics of the Japanese project worry that its completion in just a few months will create a crucial beachhead for longtime nuclear advocates who claim that plutonium, a sparkplug of nuclear weapons, can provide a promising civilian path to carbon-free energy.

According to its builders, the Rokkasho Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Facility, which has been undergoing testing since 2006, will be capable of churning out 96 tons of plutonium metal in the next dozen years, an amount greater than all the stocks that remain in the United States as a legacy of the Cold War’s nuclear arms race. Rokkasho would be the fifth-largest such facility in the world, but the only one in a country without nuclear weapons.

The metal is to be burned by Japanese utilities in dozens of fast breeder reactors, so named because they have the capability to both consume and produce plutonium. The ambition is to make Japan, a craggy, energy-starved island, nearly self-sufficient in generating electrical power.

But there is a hitch, Cochran and his allies say. A big one.

A lump of plutonium weighing 6.6 pounds — roughly the size of a grapefruit — is enough to make a nuclear weapon with an explosive power of 1 kiloton, or 1,000 tons, of TNT. If the Japanese plan goes forward, the island nation in theory would in a year have plutonium sufficient to build around 2,600 bombs, or enough to compose the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal.

Japan has renounced any desire to make nuclear weapons, but Cochran and others worry that by creating a huge plutonium stockpile — and shuttling it all over the country — the utilities there will be creating a tempting, perhaps irresistible, target for nuclear terrorists.

And though Japan is perhaps closest to finishing such a massive plutonium factory, its ambitions are far from unique.

Iran ……

India….

China….

South Korea…

But there’s more to it than that. Japan — like the United States before 1976, England from 1959 to 1994, and France from 1967 to 2009 — has long dreamed that the radioactive wastes created by nuclear reactors could one day be routinely “recycled” or burned as fuel to make electricity instead of being buried underground.

After spending tens of billions of dollars and decades on breeder-related programs, Tom Cochran said, countries find it hard to pull the plug.

“You have an entrenched bureaucracy and an entrenched research and development community and commercial interests invested in breeder technology, and these guys don’t go away,” Cochran said. “They’re believers … and they’re not going to give up. The really true believers don’t give up.”……..

“Stealing a weapon is too hard,” Cochran said. “But there is no big risk in fuel assemblies, or in taking things from a bulk handling facility that can be used to make weapons.” In this view, Rokkasho is a kind of big-box store for would-be nuclear terrorists.http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/22531-a-world-awash-in-a-nuclear-explosive

Nuclear waste into fuel – the botched plan of MOX

February 2, 2015

A Botched Plan to Turn Nuclear Warheads Into Fuel Bloomberg, By    April 24, 2014 As the Soviet Union was unraveling and the Cold War was winding down in the early 1990s, negotiators in Washington and Moscow began talking about how best to dispose of the plutonium inside thousands of nuclear warheads the two nations had agreed to dismantle. The cheapest and easiest method was to immobilize the radioactive material by encasing it in molten glass and burying it. But the Russians balked at that, likening it to flushing gold down the toilet. Ultimately, it was decided that the plutonium would be converted into fuel for nuclear power plants. In September 2000, the U.S. and Russia signed an agreement under which each side would turn 34 tons of weapons-grade plutonium into mixed-oxide fuel, or MOX, that could be combined with uranium for use in commercial reactors.

In the U.S., that huge task would take place at an aging plutonium factory in South Carolina called the Savannah River Site. From the 1950s to the 1980s, the 310-square-mile facility had churned out about 36 tons of weapons-grade plutonium for nuclear warheads. Now, the plant would turn those same warheads into fuel rods. The Department of Energy initially estimated it would cost about $1 billion to convert the plant. Construction began in August 2007, with an expected completion date of 2016.

The U.S. government even had a ready customer for the rods. Charlotte-based Duke Energy (DUK), one of the largest nuclear power companies in the U.S., signed on as a buyer. From 2005 to 2008, the company ran tests of MOX fuel the Department of Energy got from France. The fuel worked fine. Everything was going according to plan.

Almost seven years after construction began, the MOX plant is now 60 percent built. But it’s looking increasingly likely that it won’t ever be completed….The MOX plant in South Carolina requires 85 miles of pipe, 23,000 instruments, and 3.6 million linear feet of power cables. The project is vastly over budget: The Department of Energy has sunk about $5 billion into it so far and estimates it will cost an additional $6 billion to $7 billion to finish the plant, plus an additional $20 billion or so to turn the plutonium into fuel over 15 years. In its 2015 budget request released in March, the Department of Energy announced it will place the MOX project on “cold standby,” effectively mothballing the project for the foreseeable future. “It’s a major fiasco,” says Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Billions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted. It’s a classic boondoggle.”

The MOX plant is the latest blunder for the Department of Energy, which has a reputation for mismanaging big, complicated projects, particularly those related to nuclear energy. Costs for a nuclear waste treatment plant in Washington State have nearly tripled to $13 billion. A uranium processing facility in Tennessee once estimated to cost around $1 billion is now tipping the scales at around $11 billion, according to an Army Corps of Engineers study. It’s also running about 20 years behind schedule. A Department of Energy spokesman declined to comment for this article…….http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-04-24/u-dot-s-dot-botches-plan-to-turn-nuclear-warheads-into-fuel