Friday, May 25, 2007

Kyle Atwell interviews Leonor Tomero on Nuclear Reprocessing

Check out my interview on plutonium reprocessing with Leonor Tomero, a nonproliferation analyst with the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation:

Reprocessing is the process in which weapons-usable materials are extracted from spent nuclear waste produced by nuclear reactors.

Leonor provides a great summary of the administration's push for the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), which would reintroduce reprocessing into US nuclear waste management.

The United States halted reprocessing 30 years ago due to:

* high costs: Reprocessing and recycling the recovered plutonium would add about $2 billion per year to the cost of US nuclear-generated electricity

* environmental and safety risks: In 2005 Britain's only reprocessing plant in Sellafield had a major leak accident, spilling 83,000 liters of hazardous materials. The plant remains shutdown today

* the serious threat reprocessing poses for nonproliferation efforts: Both India and North Korea have used materials from plutonium reprocessing to build nuclear weapons

The problems are as real today as they were thirty years ago when the US initially stopped reprocessing. Fortunately Congress is wary of reprocessing as well, at least for now--as Jeff discusses here, the House Energy and Appropriations Subcommittee opted to trim funds for GNEP from $405 million to $120 million on Wednesday. While this funding allocation is not final, it is a good start to the legislative process.

No comments: