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There Is No Such Thing as Nuclear Waste March 13, 2009

Posted by federalist in Energy.

I quoted William Tucker last year on this subject when I pointed out the absurdity of our country’s executive ban on recycling our own nuclear fuel.  The new administration might actually be taking a step in the right direction on nuclear energy policy since they apparently intend to terminate the Yucca Mountain boondoggle.

Today Tucker explains in greater detail how wasteful it is to not recycle spent nuclear fuel (emphasis mine):


Ninety-five percent of a spent fuel rod is plain old U-238, the nonfissionable variety that exists in granite tabletops, stone buildings and the coal burned in coal plants to generate electricity. Uranium-238 is 1% of the earth’s crust. It could be put right back in the ground where it came from.

Of the remaining 5% of a rod, one-fifth is fissionable U-235 — which can be recycled as fuel. Another one-fifth is plutonium, also recyclable as fuel. Much of the remaining three-fifths has important uses as medical and industrial isotopes. Forty percent of all medical procedures in this country now involve some form of radioactive isotope, and nuclear medicine is a $4 billion business. Unfortunately, we must import all our tracer material from Canada, because all of our isotopes have been headed for Yucca Mountain.



1. federalist - February 28, 2010

Tucker is back with rebuttals to the arguments against nuclear power. Regarding concerns about recycling:

The conceit of the 1970s was that if we isolated plutonium in an American reprocessing plant, some foreign terrorist would steal it to make a bomb. Half a dozen countries have since built nuclear bombs, none of them with stolen American plutonium. North Korea built its own reactor. Iran has been enriching uranium. France, Japan and Russia all reprocess and no one has stolen their plutonium. Reprocessing American fuel has nothing to do with nuclear proliferation.

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