Russia - Plutonium Investigation n°12/13

Worth Reading

Brian G. Chow and Gregory S. Jones, "Managing Wastes With and Without Plutonium Separation", RAND, 1999, 45 pages

The study compares plutonium fuel strategies (once through MOX and multi-recycling) with low enriched uranium once-through mode operation from the waste management point of view. The authors have established a kind of eco-audit of alternative fuel management taking the waste production from all steps into account. The analysis uses "cost as a proxy for evaluating whether reprocessing 'eases waste management' - the cheaper are the sum of the costs of conditioning and disposal of wastes generated in these steps, the 'easier' is the waste managed."

The results are striking. Plutonium fuel cycles, as compared to spent fuel direct disposal, generate:

- 20-30% less in the waste volume of mill tailings;
- 5-10% more low-level waste; - 90-150% more intermediate-level waste;
- 7% less to 44% more heat from high-level waste and spent fuel;
- 20-25% higher total waste disposition costs.
Conclusion: "The reprocessing and the use of plutonium actually make waste management more difficult". Surprise?

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Gregory S. Jones, Brian G. Chow and S. Rae Starr, "Does Burning Weapons Plutonium Generate Hotter Waste and Consume More Repository Space?", RAND, November 1998, 20 pages

The issue is already defined in the title. The authors look at the implications of the US government weapons plutonium disposition strategy. In particular the question of the final consequences for the final storage of the difference waste categories. The results show that the MOX option leads to 20-56% more space in the repository compared to the direct disposal option (immobilisation of plutonium with high level waste). The main cause for this costly difference is the additional build up of americium-241. One of the technical items which certainly should retain more attention in the debate over the least problematic plutonium disposition option.

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