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Modern and future nuclear fuel cycles and the relationship with nuclear waste management

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  • Conflict of interest: The author has declared no conflicts of interest for this article.

Abstract

Discussions of nuclear fuel cycles and nuclear waste typically focus on very long-term radiological hazards and on concerns over proliferation of nuclear weapons. While there are technical solutions to address the radiological hazards for any of the various feasible fuel cycles, there are substantial practical differences that may influence both the cost and political acceptability of waste disposal options. Only full recycle reduces the actual long-term hazard in a major way. Efficient use of the energy content of uranium will eventually require some form of recycle of used nuclear fuel, but with known recoverable uranium resources, this is not an urgent concern. Proliferation concerns differ among the various fuel cycles and each presents its own challenges, but ultimately, the differences in proliferation risks are more political than technical. At this point, the actual cost of any of the options for closing the fuel cycle is not adequately known to provide guidance. WIREs Energy Environ 2014, 3:323–329. doi: 10.1002/wene.99

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