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CRS — Managing the Nuclear Fuel Cycle: Policy Implications of Expanding Global Access to Nuclear Power

Managing the Nuclear Fuel Cycle: Policy Implications of Expanding Global Access to Nuclear Power. Mary Beth Nikitin, Coordinator, Specialist in Nonproliferation, Anthony Andrews, Specialist in Energy and Defense Policy. October 19, 2012.

  • “After several decades of widespread stagnation, nuclear power has attracted renewed interest in recent years. New license applications for 30 reactors have been announced in the United States, and another 548 are under construction, planned, or proposed around the world. In the United States, interest appears driven, in part, by tax credits, loan guarantees, and other incentives in the 2005 Energy Policy Act, as well as by concerns about carbon emissions from competing fossil fuel technologies.
    A major concern about the global expansion of nuclear power is the potential spread of nuclear fuel cycle technolog – particularly uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessin – that could be used for nuclear weapons. Despite 30 years of effort to limit access to uranium enrichment, several undeterred states pursued clandestine nuclear programs, the A.Q. Khan black market network’s sales to Iran and North Korea representing the most egregious examples. However, concern over the spread of enrichment and reprocessing technologies may be offset by support for nuclear power as a cleaner and more secure alternative to fossil fuels. The Obama Administration has expressed optimism that advanced nuclear technologies being developed by the Department of Energy may offer proliferation resistance. The Administration has also pursued international incentives and agreements intended to minimize the spread of fuel cycle facilities.”
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