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Project Title:

Internationalization of the Civilian Nuclear Fuel Cycle
PIN: ISAC-N-06-02-A        

Major Unit:

Policy and Global Affairs
Division on Earth and Life Studies

Sub Unit: Committee on International Security and Arms Control
Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board

RSO: Lowenthal, Micah

Subject/Focus Area:

Project Scope
This joint study by the U.S. National Academies and the Russian Academy of Sciences (NAS and RAS) will provide an assessment of the technical, economic, legal/regulatory, and non-proliferation criteria necessary for the implementation of an international civilian nuclear fuel cycle. The study is not intended to be a comprehensive treatment of the topics listed, but rather a high-level, first cut at these complex issues.

Specifically, the proposed NAS-RAS joint study will address the primary issues and questions listed below under headings A and B. The secondary issues and questions will be addressed to the extent that budget and time permit::

A. Providing fuel services to countries that already have Light Water Reactors or would be interested in constructing Light Water Reactors (LWRs) if they did not have to develop the entire fuel cycle.

Primary Issues:

1. Is it feasible and effective to establish international fuel supply centers as an incentive for countries not to develop indigenous enrichment facilities?

2. What are the advantages and disadvantages (if any) of establishing international centers for
Sending and receiving back fuel?
Training personnel?
Manufacturing fuel?

3. Who should own the nuclear material and the fuel in such arrangements?

4. Should the international facilities be owned by governments or could private companies own some or all of the facilities?

Secondary Issues:

5. What regulatory requirements should be in place in the receiving country to provide assurance of safety and safeguards?

6. What level of technical personnel are needed, in terms of training and in terms of numbers, to provide adequate confidence that the countries receiving fuel can safely and securely operate their reactor(s)?

7. What should be the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in overseeing the transfer, use, and/or return of fuel?

8. What changes in laws and regulations in the countries sending, consuming, and receiving spent fuel would be required to implement this concept?

B. Fuel Regeneration Options to Support an International Nuclear Fuel Cycle.

Primary Issues:

1. Compare the uranium recovery by extraction plus (UREX+), the plutonium and uranium recovery by extraction (PUREX) process, and other processes being considered by the Russian Federal Agency for Atomic Energy for separation of fissile and other materials from spent or irradiated nuclear fuel. Consider the resulting waste streams and what can and should be done with these waste streams.

2. Compare the burn up and the number of cycles needed to reach an acceptable level of destruction of actinides in the conceptual advanced burner reactor proposed in the U.S. Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) and in the Russian BN-600 and BN-800 reactors.

3. What impact could new technologies have on these proposals?

Secondary Issues:

4. Compare the fuel to be produced from the processes examined in (1) for use in appropriate reactors (LWRs, High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactors, and fast reactors). What are the advantages and disadvantages of each type of fuel?

5. Compare the repository requirements for the waste produced by the processes proposed in the GNEP concept with that from a system based on PUREX and one based on Russian plans.

6. Are new laws and/or regulations required for either the U.S. or the Russian approach to the internationalization of the fuel cycle? Will either approach require any existing laws or regulations to be repealed or changed?

Because the scale of the full study task is large and the details of proposed fuel cycle strategies are in flux, the study will be carried out in two phases. In Phase I, the committees will identify distinct strategies that represent the range of fuel cycle options and gather the key technical and legal/regulatory and other information needed to analyze those options. This information-gathering stage will culminate with an international workshop. In Phase II, the committees will carry out the analysis and offer consensus findings and recommendations in a final report on the criteria necessary to achieve an international fuel cycle beneficial for suppliers and consumers alike and supportive of international non-proliferation efforts.

The project is sponsored by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
The start date for the project is May 9, 2006.
A report will be issued in the spring of 2008.

Note: The project duration has been extended. The report is now expected to be issued in fall 2008.

Project Duration: 24 months    

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Committee Membership
Committee Membership

 Meeting 1 - 10/16/2006
 Meeting 2 - 04/22/2007
 Meeting 3 - 10/09/2007
 Meeting 4 - 02/12/2008


Reports having no URL can be seen
at the Public Access Records Office
Internationalization of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle: Goals, Strategies, Challenges