Reprocessing nuclear fuel necessary for sustainable growth: Experts


Mahabalipuram : Reprocessing spent fuel is vital for the sustainable growth of nuclear power in the wake of the uranium crisis that is expected to hit the sector in the medium term, experts say.

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While this was the majority conclusion of experts from France, Russia, India, China and Japan at the closing session of the four-day Asian Nuclear Prospects 2010 (ANUP 2010) conference here late Wednesday, their counterparts from the US disagreed.

The conference was organised by the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) and Indian Nuclear Society in co-operation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

“It is in the long-term good to recycle the available spent fuel and one should take advantage of the existing fuel closing technologies,” said the French nuclear science expert Bernard Boullis.

Referring to the increased interest amongst the Asian nations in opting for nuclear power IGCAR director Baldev Raj said: “It is imperative to have research and development collaboration amongst nations as the scale and the challenges are higher now than earlier.”

Speaking on integrating the fuel cycles of fast breeder reactors and other reactors, Russian expert A. Bychkov said the international direction is to create integrated reprocessing systems, even as he stressed his country’s commitment to closing the fuel cycle.

Dissenting from his fellow panelists was US expert David Hill, who said: “On the technology side, the spent fuel can be safely stored and new uranium reserves can be found if one looks for them. The US is now investing on developing new fundamental technologies.”

Referring to the timelag between prospecting for new uranium sources and actual production in the context of several Asian countries planning to go the nuclear power way, Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) member Anil Kakodkar said: “In the medium term, there is going to be a uranium crisis. Further, the disposal of spent fuel is yet to be resolved.”

Concurring with him, fellow AEC member M.R. Srinivasan said: “There is some sort of convergence of ideas on the closed fuel cycle amongst Asian countries, Russia, France and others. Asia and Europe can work on a common platform as there is no time available to look for new uranium sources.”