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Re: [greenyes] Energy Bill Filibuster - Is Recycling Nuclear Waste Good Public Policy?
Proliferation concerns come out in at least two other ways in the bill.

First, export of highly enriched uranium (HEU) for use in medical isotope production is allowed to continue.  While the final bill contains a couple of pages of bureaucratic language to try to constrain the proliferation problems through regulation, it is clear that distribution of these materials remains difficult to control the more places it goes, and hence a problem.  Furthermore, it appears as though all of the isotopes can already be made using low enriched uranium (LEU), so there is no medical reason for the distribution to be continued.  Rather, the continued export appears to be driven by some firms (particularly one large industry player in Canada) who do not wish to invest in the new equipment needed to shift the production approach (some of the isotope manufacturers can already use LEU).

Second is the issue of new uranium enrichment capacity mentioned by Lance.  Since our existing enrichment facility is already operating well below capacity, the push for new plant is a bit strange.  The bill actually prohibits the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from considering whether or not there is a market need for more enrichment capacity in their decision about whether to license the facility.  Why then would private investors proceed?  They must think that, once all of the various subsidies are taken into account, they can beat the existing facility on price.  While cheaper toothpaste is a good thing, cheaper ability to enrich uranium is probably not.  Especially as two extremely capital-intensive firms, with huge overcapacity, fight to increase sales to stay in business, the proliferation concerns would be expected to multiply.

-Doug Koplow

Doug Koplow
Earth Track, Inc.
2067 Massachusetts Avenue - 4th Floor
Cambridge, MA  02140
Tel:  617/661-4700
Fax: 617/354-0463

>>> <lkingeco2@no.address> 11/25/03 10:37AM >>>
GreenYes ListServe,

The Senate filibuster of the energy bill is allowing a growing number of 
people to read HR 6, including more senators, media and the public.  Is recycling 
nuclear waste good public policy?

While many kinds of recycling are common sense solutions to waste problems, 
in some instances recycling creates new problems.  That is one reason why the 
electronics take back campaign has focused on getting toxics out of computers 
and monitors as part of it message, at least as I understand the campaign.

An analysis of the Energy Conference Report on HR 6 by faith-based 
organizations opposed to the bill contains more than 50 issues relating to:
- public health and the environment,
- coastal and sensitive lands,
- consumer and taxpayer concerns,
- energy and national security. 

It includes a point that caught me by surprise.  The energy bill would 
reverse a decades-old U.S. policy opposing recycling of nuclear spent fuel from 
powerplants through reprocessing.

Buried deep in the 1,000+ page bill, Title IX, Sec. 926, authorizes new 
research and directs the Department of Energy to explore proliferation-resistent 
forms of reprocessing.  Lip-service is paid to nuclear non-proliferation.  But 
when you combine subsidies to the nuclear industry, plans for a uranium 
enrichment plant in New Mexico, Title IX and other provisions, the net affect of the 
energy bill is an effort to revive the nuclear industry in a way that would 
also increase risky forms of nuclear commerce.

Spent fuels rods have been piling up for decades at commerical reactors 
across the United States.  With nuclear reprocessing, waste problems expand 
dramatically and so do terrorism risks and proliferation risks in the United States 
and other countries.

As a nuclear physicist at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency said in 
1978, you go from the "spent fuel" waste stream to creating a "river of waste" 
with reprocessing.  At that time Dr. Anthony Nero and I were working together on 
the 66-nation International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation (INFCE), proposed 
by President Carter as a means to explore limiting nuclear weapons 
proliferation risks as nations sought to generate electricity from nuclear power.

I was a member of the U.S. Delegation to INFCE, while working in the Office 
of Nuclear Technology and Safeguards at the U.S. Department of State.  INFCE 
was hosted by the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.

Many of the issues dominating U.S. foreign policy today toward Iraq, Iran, 
and North Korea have been challenges recognized by the international community 
going back to the 1960's.  Starting with the Test Ban Treaty and the Nuclear 
Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the United States and many other nations 
demonstrated leadership in creating an international framework to reduce some of the 
obvious dangers and risks of trade nuclear technology.

Under Presidents Ford and Carter, the United States took a leadership role in 
the 1970's by seeking to restrain international commerce in sensitive 
enrichment and reprocessing technologies.

President Carter brought an end to reprocessing in the United States.  So why 
reverse that policy now?  What has changed in terms of technology?

As the U.S. seeks to bring an end to reprocessing of spent fuel rods in North 
Korea, is this the time to restart our own reprocessing program?  Will this 
enhance U.S. national security?

Reprocessing of spent fuel from commerical nuclear power reactors isn't an 
issue that has been widely debated by the public as the Bush Administration and 
Congress have worked on the energy bill for nearly three years.

The filibuster is allowing time to read HR 6 more closely. I encourage 
participants in the GreenYes ListServe to do a little reading.  Make your views know 
to members of the Senate and House over the holidays.

Lance King
Community Solutions
Tel: 703/536-7282

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