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Destination unknown: Rokkasho and the international future of nuclear reprocessing

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The much discussed expansion of investment in nuclear power in response to global warming and energy scarcity depends on solutions being found to the management and disposal of spent reactor fuels. The reprocessing route, involving the separation from radioactive waste of plutonium and uranium and their subsequent recycling, has long been advocated. However, experience shows that it suffers from chronic problems of coordination, usually resulting in mismatches of supply and demand and large stockpiles of plutonium. Just as the UK is withdrawing, Japan is embarking on large-scale reprocessing with the opening of the facility at Rokkasho which seems destined to produce large surpluses of plutonium against a background of heightened concerns over nuclear proliferation. In the meantime, the Bush administration has ended the United States'blanket opposition to reprocessing and is proposing a controversial new discrimination between‘fuel-cycle'and‘non-fuel-cycle'states. Confusion reigns.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2006

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