Nuclear power is the most dependable and economical non-emitting electricity production source available today – accounting for 70% of the non-carbon-emitting electricity production in the U.S. However, the once-through nuclear fuel cycle currently employed by our commercial nuclear power plants taps less than 10% of the energy value in the fuel. Reprocessing and re-use of the contents of used nuclear fuel would enable us to significantly increase the fraction of available energy extracted from the fuel and more efficiently utilize the earth's uranium resources.
The goal of nuclear fuel reprocessing research is to develop reprocessing approaches that are economically viable, environmentally acceptable, and secure from the proliferation vulnerability standpoint.
I had an opportunity recently to spend the day with National Public Radio's award-winning science journalist, Richard Harris. Richard came our way to research the status of nuclear fuel reprocessing research. His story ran today on NPR's Morning Edition. You can read and listen to the story at:
I think Richard did a nice job of presenting the issues, goals, and challenges associated with harnessing that untapped energy in used nuclear fuel and reducing the burden of the spent fuel and nuclear waste legacy of nuclear power.