chapter  5
26 Pages

The impact of reprocessing on disposition

WithWilliam J. Weida

Reprocessing is the method by which spent nuclear fuel is separated into its various components (plutonium, uranium, and other fission products). Plutonium is much easier to separate than uranium because plutonium is a different isotope and thus, it can be chemically dissolved and removed from spent fuel. Reprocessing occupies an unusual position among industrial processes with respect to the accumulated knowledge of its costs - after thirty years of development and operating experience, cost estimates for reprocessing are still highly uncertain and cost estimates still fail to provide any economic rationale for reprocessing activities. Financing costs for reprocessing plants are large because of the lengthy construction times and the uncertainty and risk involved in reprocessing projects - particularly if the projects are privately owned. However, even with government ownership, there is no evidence that reprocessing leads to a cost effective method of reactor operation.