Policy ForumENERGY

Plutonium and Reprocessing of Spent Nuclear Fuel

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Science  28 Sep 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5539, pp. 2397-2398
DOI: 10.1126/science.1064667

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The May 2001 report of the National Energy Policy Development Group, chaired by Vice President Cheney recommended that the U.S. reexamine its opposition to the reprocessing of spent nuclear-power-reactor fuel. Past opposition has been based on the fear that reprocessing would make it easier for governments or terrorist groups to acquire separated plutonium, which can be used to make nuclear weapons. As described by von Hippel in this Policy Forum, this concern still appears valid. Furthermore, the economic costs of reprocessing are likely to continue to be high and its environmental benefits questionable.