New PPI Report: America Must Emulate France’s Model of Reprocessing Waste into Usable Energy
WASHINGTON — While development of clean alternative fuels like solar and wind power should be a priority in any energy policy, none will support U.S. energy demands overnight. Currently, the U.S. depends on nuclear energy for 20 percent of its electrical power. That means that nuclear energy will have to continue to be a part of the U.S. landscape, and so will nuclear waste. The next president will have to develop a plan to deal with future waste and the over 60,000 tons of nuclear waste that already exists in America.
The latest in the Progressive Policy Institute’s (PPI) Memos to the Next President series, “America’s Nuclear Waste and What to Do with It,” calls on the next president to begin investing in options that can reduce and recycle nuclear waste, noting that benefits of nuclear energy are often outweighed by concerns over the waste produced. Authors Mark Ribbing and Bill Magwood point to France’s model of “reprocessing” that turns nuclear waste into reusable energy. You can read the whole Memo at http://www.ppionline.org/
“America’s Nuclear Waste and What to Do with It” is the ninth in PPI’s ongoing Memos to the Next President series, a collection of policy prescriptions written directly to the next occupant of the White House so that he can hit the ground running on the problems facing Americans today. In this series, PPI experts propose solutions on issues ranging from economic growth to national security, which President-Elect Obama will confront as soon as he takes office.
In their Memo, Ribbing and Magwood lay out reasons to invest in nuclear waste recycling and research other options for nuclear waste:
*The U.S. must research reprocessing techniques which would reuse nuclear fuel and produce a waste that is significantly less hazardous in order to deal with the 60,000 tons of existing nuclear waste in America and the 2,000 additional tons that the U.S. produces each year.
*One important step is to take a closer look at methods of reprocessing nuclear by-products to decrease waste and use our nuclear fuel more efficiently. Currently, the U.S. uses a “once-through fuel cycle,” a method of processing which leaves as much as 96-97% reusable uranium or plutonium. Other nations are already using technology that can “reprocess” that same fuel cell after a three-year cooling-down period and turn remaining fuel into power. This process is not perfect and must be developed further by American scientists, but it could make nuclear power a viable clean-energy option.
*Uranium and plutonium leftover after “reprocessing” can undergo a process called vitrification, which compacts the waste into a stable glass log. While stable, these logs can not be stored permanently, and more research is needed to turn this by-product into a long-term solution.
In addition to research on “reprocessing,” the U.S. must continue research on new processes that are proliferation-resistant as well as environmentally friendly. Researchers are currently exploring promising ways to break down waste into stable non-radioactive materials, using “fast reactors” that would be capable of using up more of the reactive nuclear material that other reactors can’t process. This would reduce waste and minimize the long-term hazards of nuclear power.
You can read the full text of “America’s Nuclear Waste and What To Do With It,” along with the entire Memos to the Next President series, at http://www.ppionline.org/
For questions on “America’s Nuclear Waste and What To Do With It,” or for comment from the authors, contact Alice McKeon at (202) 608-1232 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Progressive Policy Institute’s mission is to define and promote a new progressive politics for America in the 21st century. Through its research, policies, and commentary, the Institute is fashioning a new governing philosophy and an agenda for public innovation geared to the Information Age. For additional information, web users may access the Progressive Policy Institute at www.ppionline.org, or contact PPI’s press office at (202) 547-0001.
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