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Cost analysis of the US spent nuclear fuel reprocessing facility

By E.A. Schneider, M.R. Deinert and K.B. Cady


The US Department of Energy is actively seeking ways in which to delay or obviate the need for additional nuclear waste repositories beyond Yucca Mountain. All of the realistic approaches require the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. However, the US currently lacks the infrastructure to do this and the costs of building and operating the required facilities are poorly established. Recent studies have also suggested that there is a financial advantage to delaying the deployment of such facilities. We consider a system of government owned reprocessing plants, each with a 40 year service life, that would reprocess spent nuclear fuel generated between 2010 and 2100. Using published data for the component costs, and a social discount rate appropriate for intergenerational analyses, we establish the unit cost for reprocessing and show that it increases slightly if deployment of infrastructure is delayed by a decade. The analysis indicates that achieving higher spent fuel discharge burnup is the most important pathway to reducing the overall cost of reprocessing. The analysis also suggests that a nuclear power production fee would be a way for the US government to recover the costs in a manner that is relatively insensitive to discount and nuclear power growth rates.Nuclear fuel cycle Spent nuclear fuel Reprocessing Energy economics

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