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The Economics of Reprocessing Versus Direct Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel

Matthew Bunn, John P. Holdren, Steve Fetter, Bob Van Der Zwaan

Nuclear Technology / Volume 150 / Number 3 / June 2005 / Pages 209-230

Technical Paper / Fuel Cycle and Management /

We assess the economics of reprocessing versus direct disposal of spent fuel. The uranium price at which reprocessing spent fuel from light water reactors (LWRs) and recycling the resulting plutonium and uranium in LWRs would become economic is estimated for a range of reprocessing prices and other fuel cycle costs. The contribution of both fuel cycle options to the cost of electricity is also estimated. A similar analysis is performed to compare fast neutron reactors (FRs) with LWRs. We review available information about various fuel cycle costs, as well as the quantities of uranium likely to be recoverable at a range of future prices. We conclude that the once-through LWR fuel cycle is likely to remain significantly cheaper than recycling in either LWRs or FRs for at least the next 50 yr, even with substantial growth in nuclear power.

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