New IPFM Report: Plutonium Separation in Nuclear Power Programs

The International Panel on Fissile Materials has released a new research report, Plutonium Separation in Nuclear Power Programs: Status, Problems, and Prospects of Civilian Reprocessing Around the World (pdf file).

The report looks at the history, current status and prospects of programs aimed at separating plutonium for civilian use from spent fuel produced by nuclear power reactors. Today only China, France, India, Japan, Russia and the United Kingdom have active civilian reprocessing programs, and all of these programs are detailed in the report. The report also looks at the rise and fall of reprocessing in Germany and the agitation in South Korea for starting a program.

There are also three technical chapters assessing the utility of reprocessing for managing spent nuclear fuel; the economics of reprocessing and plutonium use; and the radiological risk from reprocessing plants. The report also briefly outlines the international security implications of reprocessing.

This global overview of reprocessing shows the world is closer to the end of separating plutonium and the associated security, economic and environmental dangers. The country studies in the report offer insight into the institutional forces that have sustained national commitments to separating plutonium in the face of economic incentives to desist from this practice. The report also outlines various processes that can overcome such institutional resistance in time and lead to the end of spent fuel reprocessing and plutonium separation.

Contributors to the report are Anatoli Diakov, Klaus Janberg, Jungmin Kang, Gordon MacKerron, M. V. Ramana, Mycle Schneider, Masafumi Takubo, Gordon Thomson, Frank von Hippel, Hui Zhang, and Yun Zhou. The report was edited by Frank von Hippel and M. V. Ramana. Michael Schoeppner provided editorial support.