US takes another look at recycling nuclear fuel 

February 1, 2024, Physics Today

 As the Biden administration seeks to triple the nation’s nuclear energy capacity in response to climate change, it is edging closer to lifting a more than four-decade-long moratorium that the US has observed on the recovery of plutonium from spent nuclear fuel. Ending the prohibition is critical to the plans of some advanced reactor developers, but it would be a major change in US nonproliferation policy, which opposes separating plutonium that could potentially be stolen or diverted to construct a nuclear explosive device. Current policy also recognizes that reprocessing by the US could encourage other nations with nuclear power to follow suit. 

Department of Energy officials say the moratorium on commercial reprocessing will remain in place for now. But the Biden administration has shown a receptiveness to reprocessing that contrasts sharply with his Democratic predecessors, dating to Jimmy Carter. “The Biden–Harris administration and DOE recognize the importance of developing practical uses for America’s used nuclear fuel,” energy secretary Jennifer Granholm stated in October 2022. “Recycling nuclear waste for clean energy generation can significantly reduce the amount of spent fuel at nuclear sites and increase economic stability for the communities leading this important work.” 

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