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MIT Study Urges Nuclear Overhaul

by Jeffrey W. Johnson
September 20, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 38

The U.S. needs a long-term, carefully planned and managed program to develop nuclear power, a team of Massachusetts Institute of Technology physicists urged in a report last week. The report focuses on the nuclear fuel cycle and follows other nuclear energy recommendations released in 2003 and 2009 by the same group of MIT nuclear advocates. It warns against the current push by Congress for a closed fuel cycle that reprocesses spent nuclear fuel. Currently, there is no shortage of uranium, the report says, and “limited recycling” of mixed oxide fuels already under way in some countries has shown “minimal” benefits. Instead, the report recommends a study of waste options and spent-fuel storage for as long as a century. It suggests that the U.S. should move toward centralized storage, rather than today’s on-site storage at nuclear power plants. Meanwhile, the U.S. should develop a clear nuclear development path and overhaul its nuclear waste management structure. The physicists also recommend that the U.S. and other nations provide—and control—nuclear fuel for countries with developing nuclear programs. MIT’s report comes as a presidential panel moves ahead with developing a new plan to address radioactive wastes from nuclear power plants.


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