chapter  1
10 Pages

Economic issues and the disposition of weapon-grade plutonium and highly enriched uranium

WithWilliam J. Weida

Disposition could potentially be accomplished by means that range from transmuting the surplus nuclear materials into other elements, mixing the materials with spent nuclear fuel, vitrifying the materials by mixing them in molten glass, shooting the materials into the sun, or ‘burning’ the materials for power generation in nuclear reactors. In spite of an overwhelming body of evidence that there is currently no way to economically use plutonium as reactor fuel, the need to dispose of plutonium and highly enriched uranium in a safe and environmentally sound manner remains. The world-wide problem of plutonium accumulation has been complicated by the large amount of plutonium generated by civilian nuclear power operations. Quasi-private consortia have put considerable effort into convincing the US government to embark on reprocessing spent nuclear fuel to recover plutonium and uranium, and to support plutonium burning.