Another option with spent fuel is reprocessing, where the fuel’s components are separated and can be reused, or, as is the major point of contention with this technology, used in nuclear weapons. Several attempts have been made with reprocessing technologies in the US in the past without success. In Europe, several sites are operating, but sites in France and the United Kingdom have been plagued by problems including radioactive discharges that .
“Reprocessing is a filthy technology, despite what anybody says,” Kraft said. He also hypothesized that the Illinois Senate vote could be a “backdoor attempt” to let General Electric build an experimental type of reprocessing reactor called a pyroprocessing plant. Under the 1987 moratorium, construction of such a plant would not be allowed.
“Illinois has got enough nuclear plants and enough nuclear waste, and we don’t need any more,” Kraft said.
If the Yucca Mountain shutdown goes as planned, nuclear waste will stay on-site for the foreseeable future. And at least for the moment, Kraft doesn’t think any push to use Illinois as a dumping ground will gain traction. He said the bill that passed 40-1 in the state Senate will likely stall in the House, or at worst with the Governor.
O’Connell stressed that there was no good reason given to shutter Yucca Mountain. “In the request to withdraw there was very skimpy reference to why,” he said. “It was only that the Secretary of Energy has decided that a geologic repository at Yucca Mountain is not a workable option.” Instead of closing it for good, he said, continuing to evaluate the 8,000-plus-page application submitted regarding Yucca Mountain in 2008 provides the best road forward.
“We want that process to continue, we think it is worth doing,” he said. Kraft, along with nuclear opponents around the country, thinks otherwise: the best solution to dealing with nuclear waste is to not produce any.