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  • Chapter 8: Shared Responsibilities, Shared Rights - American Academy of Arts & Sciences
    it at all likely that in today s world we could come up with something safer and better The danger that this approach if tried by influential states could bring to an already debilitated regime was quickly identified It seemed to be on the cusp of forcing many NNWS to exercise their inalienable right earlier and more vigorously than they may have envisaged because of the prospect of losing that right Nations that had abandoned or mothballed their nuclear fuel cycle programs started rushing to reactivate them Even states that had been calmly and patiently building up their national capacities in full compliance with non proliferation commitments were tempted to become more vigilant and guarded in their international intercourse By themselves each of these developments may not be particularly worrisome but overall they point to a gradual loss of trust in the viability of a rules based international order and to a correspondingly greater recourse to self help Fortunately President Obama put these concerns to rest when he pointed out in his speech in Prague that the basic bargain is sound and that no approach will succeed if it is based on the denial of rights to nations that play by the rules Scott Sagan s piece belongs of course to a much sounder lineage than Loophole Theory Sagan like me is a true believer in the NPT He proposes to shore up the nonproliferation regime as it exists by seeking creative realistic ways of implementing its provisions and drawing new avenues of consensus among its parties NWS and NNWS alike By underlining that the commitments in Articles IV and VI are common to all Sagan rightly rejects a selective reading of the text of the Treaty I like this part and that part But this other one is not convenient for me there s a loophole This is an endeavor that merits constructive good faith answers Shared responsibility is the right approach the only one likely to succeed in maintaining nonproliferation norms promoting gradual nuclear disarmament and making the world safe for nuclear energy It also merits an honest expression of differences There is a valid idea behind Sagan s description of the respective roles of the IAEA Secretariat IAEA Board of Governors and UN Security Council in dealing with noncompliance with safeguards agreements But the choice of words this inalienable right is in reality a conditional right is unfortunate and maybe misleading The word inalienable is not in Article IV by chance It means what it says It is part of a careful balance of rights and obligations that particularly pending further progress in disarmament is already considered skewed toward NWS as it is Countries that are found in noncompliance with their safeguards agreements have one obligation to come back into full compliance and provide assurances to the international community that they did not acquire and are not seeking to acquire nuclear weapons This is precisely the purpose of safeguards preventing diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses

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  • Contributors - American Academy of Arts & Sciences
    of the UN Institute for Disarmament Research among many other diplomatic and governmental positions He was President of the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference and the 1984 Conference on Disarmament Mustafa Kibaroglu teaches courses on arms control and disarmament in the Department of International Relations at Bilkent University in Ankara Turkey In 2004 2005 he was a Joint Research Fellow at the Harvard University Belfer Center s Project on Managing the Atom Science Technology and Public Policy Program and International Security Program He has also held fellowships at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research He is a member of the Council of Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs Harald Müller is Professor of International Relations at Goethe University in Frankfurt and Executive Director of the Peace Research Institute in Frankfurt He has been a member of numerous working groups on nonproliferation and served as Chairman of the UN s Advisory Board on Disarmament in 2004 His publications include Building a New World Order 2009 Democracy and Nuclear Arms Control Destiny or Ambiguity Security Studies 2008 Arms Control in the 21st Century Journal of International Peace and Organization 2008 Democracy and Security Preferences Norms and Policy Making 2008 and Democratic Wars Looking at the Dark Side of Democratic Peace 2006 Scott D Sagan a Fellow of the American Academy since 2008 is Caroline S G Munro Professor of Political Science and Codirector of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University Before joining the Stanford faculty he was a lecturer in the Department of Government at Harvard University and served as a special assistant to the director of the Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the

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  • Introduction - American Academy of Arts & Sciences
    clear set of goals in which the issues surrounding the back end of the fuel cycle must be included and satisfactorily addressed This essay seeks to contribute to those efforts It is followed by four new papers whose authors were invited to reflect on this issue and to share their thoughts on this topic These new papers reflect a diversity of sources and opinions in keeping with both the global importance of these questions and the benefits of developing an international perspective on how they might be addressed The authors focus on various aspects of the challenges raised by the back end of the fuel cycle and offer possible options for addressing these challenges This volume also includes an edited version of remarks made by Ellen Tauscher Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security at a January 2010 conference at the Hoover Institution in Stanford California Under Secretary Tauscher s remarks underscore the shared sense of the importance of addressing the back end of the fuel cycle in government as well as within academic and other non governmental circles This importance cannot be overstated when considering the growth of nuclear power As Tariq Rauf observes in his essay most of the spent fuel around the world is kept at the nuclear power plants that have generated it All of the authors however support the idea of moving from the current status quo toward some form of multinational or international approach to dealing with spent fuel including the possibility of the establishment of international spent fuel repositories Although Rauf notes the likelihood of strong public opposition to international repositories based on the traditional resistance even to national repositories Frank von Hippel observes that communities in Finland and Sweden that host nuclear power plants have actually volunteered to host underground repositories suggesting that it may be possible for public opposition even toward international repositories eventually to be overcome Two of the authors Frank von Hippel and Atsuyuki Suzuki suggest that the United States should be the first to serve as a host for an international repository and take spent fuel from other countries with small programs as a way both to strengthen the nonproliferation regime and to increase nuclear safety and security worldwide Suzuki asserts that such an approach by the United States would serve as an epoch making opportunity for the Obama administration to take the leadership on this issue The essays in this collection engage with the challenge of the back end of the fuel cycle in very different ways whether through a cross comparison of the programs of Japan the Republic of Korea and Russia or through a focus on the history and current role of international organizations in this area All however are linked by a recognition that the back end of the fuel cycle has often been overlooked in discussions of the anticipated nuclear renaissance They also share a general support in principle for international approaches to the back end of the fuel cycle

    Original URL path: https://www.amacad.org/content/publications/pubContent.aspx?d=971 (2016-02-13)
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  • Chapter 1: The Key Role of the Back-End in the Nuclear Fuel Cycle - American Academy of Arts & Sciences
    reprocessing but not at the present time or with the current technology will lead some countries to extend surface storage in order to keep the option open Therefore global efforts are needed to ensure that safety and security are guaranteed at all storage facilities for spent fuel Reprocessing Reprocessing was first developed on a large scale in military facilities in order to separate fissile materials for nuclear weapons The environmental impacts the security aspects and the treatment of waste residues had lower priorities The technologies commercially applied today are basically the same as they were when the technology was first developed although much improvement has been made in reducing emissions and developing conditioning methods for non high level waste Today there is increased interest in recycling but based on new developments that provide enhanced security by avoiding separated fissile materials The advantage of the current PUREX process is that it has been demonstrated to work in a highly reliable fashion Key disadvantages are that it produces separated plutonium which is a security risk and that the plants required are large and expensive Alternatives are being worked on The UREX process developed in the United States is modified to separate only the uranium which can be recycled leaving the plutonium with the fission products and other actinides in proliferation resistant form The COEX co extraction of actinides process developed in France leaves a small amount of recovered uranium with the plutonium so that the plutonium is never separated Approaches using pyrometallurgical and electrolytic processes to separate the fission products from the actinides have been developed and even operated at the pilot plant stage but not under the current regulatory regimes which may present significant challenges to their widespread use Geological Disposal Geological disposal of high level radioactive wastes and spent fuel is the key part of the nuclear fuel cycle that has not been demonstrated in practice Technologies have been developed and extensively tested in a number of countries These technologies are based on different conceptual designs for deep repositories there are multiple feasible options for the choice of engineered barrier to enclose the used nuclear fuel and also for the geological medium in which the repository will be sited In all of the programs the safety of the deep geological system as assessed by the range of scientific methodologies developed for this purpose is invariably shown to be high In the scientific community there is general acceptance of the feasibility of safe disposal if the site and engineered system are well chosen Unfortunately political and societal acceptance remains a challenge in most countries The technical concepts developed to date in many countries are however generally recognized to be advanced enough for implementation This does not imply that further technical optimization is unnecessary In fact even the most advanced programs are still amending engineering details in order to make the operations in a deep repository safer and more efficient The largely technical information about the nuclear fuel cycle discussed so far makes clear that the necessary technologies for open or closed cycles have been developed to a level that allows their industrial application Furthermore it is clear that the nuclear fuel cycle is a global enterprise This is in part because of the widespread and heterogeneous distribution of uranium ore bodies and partly because of the technological development history The global distribution of fuel cycle technologies today is determined by various factors including The military origins and continued attractions of nuclear technology this led to the present situation of seven countries with fuel cycle capabilities that include reprocessing The distribution of natural resources this has led to countries like Australia with no nuclear power ambitions of its own as of yet being directly involved in the fuel cycle as a producer of uranium ore The desire for some degree of self sufficiency in energy supply this is a key driver in countries like Japan and a claimed driver in others like Brazil and Iran The real or perceived opportunity to provide commercial services to other countries this is a driver for enrichment and reprocessing facilities in Europe the United States and Russia and The recent hunger for clean base load electrical energy this is today leading to declarations of interest in expanding or introducing nuclear power in a long list of countries This global situation is in a state of flux The economics and politics of energy supply are changing and this will have repercussions on many aspects of supply and demand in nuclear fuel cycle services More importantly however the issues of global safety and security are becoming of increasing concern Intensive debate on these issues has taken place over the past years Most emphasis has been placed on restricting the spread of enrichment and reprocessing technologies since these can directly produce weapons usable materials A more comprehensive approach however seeks to control the distribution of all nuclear materials that can be misused by states or by terrorist groups In this section we look at actual or potential geopolitical developments in the global fuel cycle that could lead to increased security risks and at measures that could mitigate these risks Nuclear programs expand and seek more independence The spread of nuclear power reactors alone can obviously increase security risks at the back end as well as the front end of the fuel cycle Since new nuclear programs have insufficient spent fuel inventories to justify repository projects and since there are currently few fuel providers that accept the return of spent fuel expansion of reactor operations will also expand storage operations If the stores are to operate for a very long period then they will have to be maintained and safeguarded These tasks become more necessary as the radiation from the spent fuel decays to levels that allow easier handling Expansion of nuclear power plants thus implies that increased efforts to ensure safe and secure storage of spent fuel are needed International initiatives have been suggested to meet this need Greater security concerns will arise if increased use of nuclear power by some states leads them to conclude that they should implement indigenous facilities for sensitive fuel cycle activities reprocessing or enrichment Both of these activities are economically justified only if a sufficiently large nuclear fleet is operated or if services are provided to foreign countries Still some countries may be tempted to push for national fuel cycle facilities even if they do not have this level of nuclear power production Assurance of supply and national independence are obvious drivers Since mastering either of the two sensitive technologies brings a nation close to the point where nuclear weapons can be produced there is great international concern about the spread of these technologies Uranium producers move into other stages of the fuel cycle At present the high tech stages of the nuclear fuel cycle are carried out by countries with nuclear weapons programs and or with advanced civilian nuclear power programs Some of the biggest uranium producers Australia Kazakhstan and Namibia fall into neither of these categories It is not unreasonable for such countries to evaluate periodically the potential economic benefits of moving farther up the supply chain rather than simply exporting ores Enrichment and fuel fabrication are obvious next steps However uranium producers could also conceivably offer back end fuel cycle services Reprocessing is unlikely to be introduced where it has not yet been done since very large scale technology is involved and the economics are not favorable An undeniably attractive offer would however be a disposal service In fact in both Australia and Canada the two largest uranium producers the possibility of taking back as spent fuel the uranium that each country has supplied has been debated at different times It has even been argued that such countries may have a moral obligation to accept spent fuel However the real driver for a uranium producing country to accept returned spent fuel for disposal would be economic Huge benefits could result for the host state but despite this advantage the political and public support for such an initiative has nowhere been evident Disposal becomes multinational For some countries national repositories may be difficult or infeasible because of the lack of favorable geological formations shortage of technical resources or prohibitively high costs Multinational or regional repositories are a potential solution for these countries and in recent years there has been a rapid increase in interest in this possibility especially in small countries The prime drivers were originally the economic and political problems that might be lessened by being shared between countries facing the same challenges The potential safety and safeguards benefits were also recognized at this early stage Increasingly in particular after the terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001 and in connection with nuclear proliferation concerns attention has focused on the security advantages that could result The IAEA has been careful to point out that risks must also be minimized at the back end of the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle that is not only in enrichment and reprocessing but also in storage and disposal of spent fuel in particular In its publications in this area the IAEA has described two potential routes to achieve international disposal the add on approach and the partnering scenario Both of these potential approaches to multinational disposal have seen significant progress The add on option calls for a single country or a network of countries with appropriate facilities working together to provide extended fuel cycle services to countries adhering to the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty NPT and wishing to use nuclear power This option could limit the spread of those sensitive technologies allowed under the Treaty namely enrichment reprocessing and accumulation of stocks of spent fuel Crucial prerequisites would be securing supply of services to all cooperating users and close international monitoring by the IAEA Within this international fuel cycle scheme the fuel leasing component is perhaps the most promising The U S government has indicated its support for such a scheme in Russia through the Global Nuclear Power Infrastructure GNPI proposal or in the United States through the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership GNEP initiative The proposals are primarily aimed at making the nuclear fuel cycle more secure but they ultimately require the fuel suppliers to take back the spent fuel or for a third party trustworthy country to offer storage and disposal services Unfortunately neither initiative appears to be making much progress In both Russian and U S proposals the service providers concentrate on offering enrichment fuel supply and reprocessing to client countries Although both proposals mention the take back of spent fuel this is a sensitive political issue in both countries Even if in the future it becomes acceptable to return to U S or Russian manufacturers fuel that they had provided to client nations this take back will solve only part of the problem Spent fuel from other suppliers in the market must also be accepted there are existing inventories of hazardous radioactive wastes that must also go to a deep disposal facility A more comprehensive offer of disposal services is necessary In fact an offer of this type may be the only sufficiently attractive inducement for small countries to accept the restrictions on their nuclear activities that are currently being proposed by the large powers and the IAEA The emphasis on ensuring security of supply of other services such as reactor construction fresh fuel enrichment and reprocessing is misplaced All of these services are supplied commercially at present and a customer country currently has a choice of suppliers that may well be wider than would result from implementation of initiatives that create a two tier system of nuclear supplier and user countries The key inducement for small countries to give up some of the inalienable rights afforded them in Article IV of the NPT may well be the offer of a safe secure and affordable route for disposal based on a multinational repository in another country The second option for implementing multinational repositories partnering by smaller countries has been particularly supported by the European Union through its promotion of the potential benefits of shared facilities in a regional solution For the partnering scenario in which a group of smaller countries cooperates in moving toward shared disposal facilities exploratory studies have been performed most recently by the Arius Association which also co managed the European Commission s SAPIERR Strategic Action Plan for Implementation of European Regional Repositories project on regional repositories The project funded by the European Commission has carried out a range of studies that lays the groundwork for serious multinational negotiations on the establishment of one or more shared repositories in Europe The studies have looked at legal and liability issues organizational forms economic aspects safety and security issues and public involvement challenges The proposal that resulted from SAPIERR was a staged adaptive implementation strategy for a European Repository Development Organisation ERDO At the pilot meeting of potential participants in an ERDO working group thirty two representatives from fourteen European countries were present all of whom had been nominated through their national governments as well as observers from the IAEA the European Commission and American foundations ERDO if sufficient numbers of partner nations agree to the final proposals will operate as a sister organization to those waste agencies from European countries such as France Sweden Finland and Germany that have opted for a purely national repository program If nuclear power is to expand in a safe secure and environmentally friendly manner improvements in the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle must occur in the coming years This section outlines some recommendations both technical and institutional for improvement Centralized storage maybe even underground Concentrating national inventories of spent fuel at a few centralized locations rather than having distributed stores some at decommissioned reactor sites can obviously help reduce security risks from malevolent acts in particular Some countries already have underground storage facilities and others are considering this option Given the increasing recognition that spent fuel is a valuable resource but that reprocessing is currently very expensive the probability that used fuel will be stored for many decades is rising If this happens then the arguments in favor of underground stores with enhanced safety and security will grow stronger Research on advanced reprocessing The recent support for nuclear expansion in some countries has also led to proposals for expansion of reprocessing using the current technological approaches originally developed for extraction of plutonium for weapons The GNEP initiative proposed implementing reprocessing facilities that were copies of current commercial plants The scientific community however led by the National Academies in the United States was quick to point out that this is unnecessary and uneconomic at the present time and that it could lead to increased rather than decreased proliferation risks Nevertheless the ultimate need to recycle fissile materials was accepted and the conclusion was drawn that research into advanced reprocessing technologies is the most appropriate strategy today Future technologies may improve the economics environmental impacts and security aspects Optimization of engineering aspects of repositories A variety of repository designs and operational concepts have been developed over the last thirty years Most of these however have tended to be highly conservative with the explicit aim of demonstrating that deep geological facilities can provide the necessary isolation of long lived radioactive wastes over unprecedented timescales up to one million years Relatively soon the first facilities will be licensed and constructed and therefore practical engineering issues will rise in importance Mining and nuclear working methods must be coordinated in a manner that ensures operational safety and efficient operation Quality assurance is a key challenge In addition the potential for cost savings must be addressed The work in the advanced Swedish and Finnish spent fuel disposal programs illustrates this well In both of these cases the original massive copper container has been redesigned to use less copper and more steel Other disposal programs with differing safety concepts will likely face similar challenges Technical and financial assistance to new nuclear states Leading nuclear nations must commit to work closely with young or new nuclear power nations to help them meet their energy needs and aspirations in a manner that preserves and improves security nonproliferation objectives transparency and stability The leading nuclear nations will have much better chances for success in assuring continued nuclear safety security nonproliferation and environmental preservation if they work proactively with emerging nations to understand and help them improve their nuclear capabilities Providing technical and in some cases financial assistance to help emerging nations realize a secure and healthy energy future will be an excellent investment if it results in relationships that promote a high quality nuclear safety and security culture In the context of this essay it is important to note that the assistance offered should extend to the back end of the fuel cycle An improved approach would be for providers of front end services and of nuclear power plants to bundle support for repository design and construction activities with back end services Multinational reprocessing facilities Reprocessing plants that separate uranium plutonium and wastes from spent nuclear fuel can divert the plutonium to weapons use as well As a result there have been several attempts to pursue multinational solutions though with little success to date With the spread of nuclear power the advent of new technologies and a greater focus on assuring decades long supply of fresh fuel for nuclear plants more countries may begin to consider the value of developing indigenous reprocessing facilities It has also been argued that implementing this technology can ease the problems of waste disposal However the waste disposal advantages associated with reprocessing are not enough to justify the technology on their own Thus there are ample incentives to pursue the creation of multinational enrichment and reprocessing capabilities Providing a framework that makes emerging nuclear nations meaningful participants in such initiatives holds great promise for better meeting both the energy and security needs of all

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  • Chapter 2: Possible International Fuel-Cycle Arrangements Attractive to States during the Nuclear Power Renaissance - American Academy of Arts & Sciences
    term None of the proposals listed above clearly addresses issues related to the removal of spent nuclear fuel the supply of spent fuel storage or other back end services It is noteworthy that none of the above approaches was proposed by a developing country or by a group of developing countries which in principle would be the most interested parties and would benefit most from these arrangements All of the proposals came from traditional nuclear supplier countries as their own initiatives or came through international organizations Developing countries therefore are studying these proposals to ensure they reflect their interests and limitations SPENT FUEL DISPOSAL AND STORAGE FACILITIES Little serious discussion is taking place on proliferation related to the back end of the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle namely spent fuel disposal and spent fuel storage Currently the responsibility lies solely with the nation concerned and there is no international facility providing spent fuel disposal services or spent fuel storage The final disposal of spent fuel is a potential candidate for multilateral approaches which may appeal to states with smaller civil nuclear programs Storage facilities for spent fuel are in operation and are being built in many countries However there are no international services offered in this area except for those of the Russian Federation which is ready to accept spent Russian supplied fuel from client countries This operation is a good candidate for multilateral approaches primarily at the regional level Storage of such nuclear materials in safe secure facilities would enhance safeguards and physical protection It would minimize the costs of maintaining such facilities in countries with small nuclear power programs Perhaps it is an opportune moment for the IAEA to encourage the development of such facilities and services under multilateral control in emerging countries FUEL LEASING AND TAKE BACK MODEL The combined option of fuel leasing fuel take back whereby the leasing state provides the needed fuel through an arrangement with its nuclear fuel vendor has advantages The leasing state issues an export license to its fuel vendor to send fresh fuel to a client reactor The spent leased fuel once removed from the reactor and cooled down can then be returned to its country of origin or sent through the IAEA to a third party or to a regional or multinational center elsewhere for storage and ultimately disposal The inherent problems related to the international transport of highly radioactive materials are being considered in this option Spent fuel disposal spent fuel storage and the fuel leasing fuel take back combined option have their own problems related to the willingness to accept these wastes as it is politically difficult and sensitive for states to accept spent fuel that is not produced in their own reactors States with suitable disposal sites that are concerned about proliferation ought to seriously consider the fuel leasing take back proposal as it may also offer a considerable commercial opportunity MULTILATERAL APPROACHES As commonly indicated multilateral approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle by

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  • Chapter 3: New Approaches to the Nucelar Fuel Cycle - American Academy of Arts & Sciences
    supply stemming from commercial technical or other failures A summary of existing proposals is available on the IAEA s website http www iaea org Presently there are twelve mutually complementary proposals These proposals range from providing backup assurance of the supply by governments to establishing an IAEA controlled LEU reserve to setting up international uranium enrichment centers where the IAEA would have some role in the decision making All of these proposals are currently under consideration among the IAEA member states By June 2009 three front runner concepts had emerged on assurances of supply the establishment of an IAEA LEU bank the Russian Federation initiative to establish a reserve of LEU for supply to the IAEA for its member states and the German Multilateral Enrichment Sanctuary Project In addition the United Kingdom is developing its nuclear fuel assurances These proposals aim to add to states nuclear fuel options by backing up the commercial market with an assurance of supply scheme for eligible states which would increase confidence in continuing reliance on nuclear power The first two front runner concepts noted above call for the establishment of LEU reserves under IAEA auspices An IAEA LEU bank is envisaged to hold 60 tonnes of LEU that would be sufficient to meet the electricity needs of two million average Austrian households for three years In addition in November 2009 the IAEA Board of Governors decided by a vote to accept the Russian Federation proposal to set up a reserve with 120 tonnes of LEU for use by IAEA member states the legal instruments to put this into effect are expected to be signed soon BACK END INITIATIVES Once nuclear fuel has been used in a nuclear power plant to produce electricity the fuel has been spent and it awaits further treatment in a reprocessing facility to recover the uranium and plutonium contained in the waste or in an intermediate storage facility or in a final repository as a terminal solution Among the more visible efforts to promote MNAs for the back end were the IAEA study on Regional Nuclear Fuel Cycle Centers 1975 1977 the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation program 1977 1980 the Expert Group on International Plutonium Storage 1978 1982 the IAEA Committee on Assurances of Supply 1980 1987 and the Conference for the Promotion of International Cooperation on the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy In a general sense these efforts concluded that most of the proposed arrangements were technically feasible and that based on the projections of energy demand economies of scale rendered them economically attractive Nonetheless all of these initiatives failed for a variety of political technical and economic reasons as noted above In general thus far MNAs may have been more successful in uranium enrichment 3 front end than in the field of spent fuel reprocessing In part in the author s view this may be because for now reprocessing technology requires greater financial investment and involves more technical complexity Growth in reprocessing capacity has been somewhat limited

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  • Chapter 4: Not Second but First Place for the United States - American Academy of Arts & Sciences
    risks to public health or to the environment In most cases host countries would have to change their current laws before a facility could be built and no such action would occur without first establishing these assurances Countries willing to take these steps would in effect demonstrate their long term commitment to hosting a facility on their soil Moreover both the host country and the global public must share the belief that all states have a right to the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes A state hosting an internationally managed facility should therefore have to commit to accepting spent fuel produced not only as a result of civilian activities but also as a result of nuclear disarmament thus enhancing overall transparency because a facility with this guarantee would be more likely to attract global public support and dilute deep seated mistrust from a legacy of past defense programs Weapons states must signal to the global public that they are taking concrete steps toward dismantlement and that they are decommissioning their nuclear plants according to internationally recognized transparency standards Client countries of course would also want certain economic benefits The direct costs for domestic interim storage are relatively small and international storage may not produce any savings Taking into account the indirect costs associated with long term storage however and all of the obligatory security and nonproliferation measures this entails international storage might begin to appear more economically appealing The question then is to what extent are such indirect costs incurred internationally Naturally small states would prefer to minimize these costs which is one reason for their hesitancy in engaging in long term domestic interim storage of spent fuel To stimulate participation in an international venture it may be necessary to provide these states with budgetary assistance This would also help to ensure their safe and secure use of nuclear energy Another overriding issue involves nonproliferation Given the sensitivities of states over the nature of spent nuclear fuel they must possess a high level of confidence in the political and institutional stability of a potential host country Otherwise discussion of establishing a spent nuclear fuel facility should not move forward Overall the nonproliferation views of the host country clients and original suppliers of the nuclear fuel which in some cases may have prior consent rights over the nuclear materials involved should be compatible For example in the event the material in question is of U S origin a decision to transfer it to a storage or disposal facility in another country would be subject to the prior approval of the United States No such approval should be forthcoming unless the United States is fully satisfied with the nonproliferation policies of the host country as well as with the safeguards and physical arrangements associated with any nuclear waste transfer President Barack Obama has clearly signaled to the global community his desire to take a leadership role in nuclear disarmament In his 2010 State of the Union Address President Obama declared

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  • Chapter 5: Spent-Fuel Management: The Cases of Japan, South Korea, and Russia - American Academy of Arts & Sciences
    fuel and disposing of the associated transuranic waste would cost about 13 trillion about 130 billion at an exchange rate of 100 per dollar 2 In addition they committed another 1 trillion to the host prefecture to be paid over the forty year lifetime of the reprocessing plant These are huge costs more than 3 billion per GWe gigawatt electric for the approximately 40 GWe of nuclear capacity that the reprocessing plant will service if it operates at full capacity 3 The utilities argue however that the alternative of shutting down all of their nuclear power plants would be even more costly 4 SOUTH KOREA South Korea whose nuclear program is about twenty five years behind that of Japan and is encountering similar opposition to expanded on site storage from the local governments hosting its nuclear power plants is also proposing to reprocess 5 Some South Koreans also advocate reprocessing because they believe that it would be useful to have the nuclear weapons option that reprocessing would provide Indeed the calls for nuclear sovereignty that is obtaining U S consent to South Korean reprocessing reached a crescendo after North Korea s May 2009 nuclear test 6 RUSSIA The George W Bush administration must have been thinking of Russia when it proposed a Global Nuclear Energy Partnership in which a few fuel cycle countries that were already reprocessing spent fuel on a large scale would dispose of the spent fuel of reactor states such as South Korea The fuel cycle states would reprocess the reactor state spent fuel recycle the recovered transuranic elements in fast neutron reactors until they were fissioned except for process losses and dispose of the foreign reprocessing waste along with their own waste Indeed the Soviet Union had provided spent fuel take back services for the Eastern European countries to which it had exported reactors and had reprocessed some of the repatriated spent fuel Furthermore in 2001 the year that the Bush administration took office Russia s Ministry of Atomic Energy MinAtom succeeded in getting a law through the Duma that would allow it to import spent fuel into Russia for temporary technological storage and or reprocessing The law is ambiguous on what is to happen to the reprocessed waste however because it requires that MinAtom reserve the right to return radioactive wastes resulting from reprocessing to the country of origin of the spent fuel 7 South Korea and Taiwan were the potential customers mentioned most frequently by MinAtom The United States however has consent rights on transfer of most South Korean and all Taiwanese spent fuel to any third country and it requires assurance that the spent fuel will not be reprocessed with out its permission The United States might eventually give its consent to the reprocessing of South Korean and Taiwanese spent fuel in Russia if Russia promised that it would not return the separated plutonium to Taiwan and South Korea These negotiations however could take years In the meantime Rosatom MinAtom s successor agency

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