[ RadSafe ] Recent estimates of reprocessing vs once through cycle

Ernesto Faillace ernesto.faillace at gmail.com
Fri Jun 5 16:42:22 CDT 2009


Not sure you want to compare reprocessing costs to "natural uranium" costs -
perhaps you meant "first-time enriched uranium"?  The enrichment process
certainly adds a non-trivial cost to the equation (expressed as SWUs), but
is a needed step to produce reactor fuel unless you are burning un-enriched
U-oxide in CANDU or other heavy water reactors.

This recent congressional testimony (which references a Boston Consulting
Group study on reprocessing's total life cycle costs commissioned by AREVA,
with which I am somewhat familiar, and compares it to another study) may
have some of the answers you are looking for:


Note that the underlying BCG study was done at a time when Uranium was
priced relatively low compared to today's prices.  At higher Uranium prices,
the economics of reprocessing of course would improve, and the trend in U
prices will probably stay up once the downblending of existing stockpiles of
the weapons Uranium into reactor fuel is completed and the "nuclear
renaissance" kicks into second gear...

In addition, it helps to have started early with a functioning (albeit
initially expensive) reprocessing facility producing a large stockpile of
reprocessed material that is mostly owned by a single utility (like EDF in
France) to make things much more feasible under "long-term" storage
scenarios (as we wait for Gen 4 breeders to be developed).

AREVA's EPR is already certified for 100% MOX fuel, and hopefully there will
soon be many more reactors that can burn much more of the reprocessed
product than is currently done (keep in mind that most reactors can already
burn some varying amounts of MOX, but require regulatory approval to do

In fact, the US is doing some indirect "reprocessing" the "backway" by
incorporating MOX from Uranium blended with weapons Pu, rather than using
recently reprocessed Pu (as you may know, ALL this weapons Pu originated
from extraction out of irradiated Uranium fuel via the PUREX process).

So the US will soon have at least half of the equation (a MOX fuel
fabrication plant being built in Aiken, SC) needed to repudiate the
inherently resource-wasteful once-through nuclear cycle.  Now all that is
needed is the quite large investment in a reprocessing facility (but what's
$20 billion these days, right??) preferably co-located with the MOX facility
to minimize transportation costs and risks.   That will be the tougher nut
to crack in the US unless we move more in the direction of government
ownership or control of key industries and services like is currently the
case in France, but it sure appears we are heading in that direction these
days, doesn't it?

I have not read the full CBO report, but I wonder if it goes as far as
accounting for externalities such as reduced waste volumes and reduced
disposal time requirements to lower effective toxicities of the glass waste
compared to used fuel, as well as the stabilization of nuclear fuel prices
as reprocessed U/MOX fuel replaces depleting stocks of traditionally mined
"virgin" enriched U fuel over the longer term.  These are fairly obvious,
but perhaps unquantified, benefits of having a closed fuel cycle that are
not necessarily realized in the short term.  As with almost anything related
to nuclear power, a fairly "long" view is required to realize its full


Ernesto Faillace, EngD, CHP
AREVA University Corporate Trainer
Aix-en-Provence, France

Message: 4
Date: Fri, 5 Jun 2009 19:46:57 +0200
From: Dan W McCarn <hotgreenchile at gmail.com>
Subject: RE: SV: AW: [ RadSafe ] The world's first permanent
       disposalsitefor used nuclear fuel will be at Forsmark, Sweden's
To: "'George Stanford'" <gstanford at aya.yale.edu>,       "'Olsson Mattias
       :MSO'" <mso at forsmark.vattenfall.se>
Cc: radsafe at radlab.nl
Message-ID: <29C3CDB8B5C64652B1F19EFB784AEC9D at DocHolidayII>
Content-Type: text/plain;       charset="iso-8859-1"

Dear Group:

Has there been a recent estimate of the "breakeven" cost of reprocessing
compared to the cost of natural uranium?


Dan ii

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