Publication Laka-library:
Plutonium Separation in Nuclear Power Programs. Status, Problems, and Prospects of Civilian Reprocessing Around the World

AuthorInternational Panel on Fissile Materials IPFM
Classification (REPROCESSING)

From the publication:

Plutonium Separation in Nuclear Power Programs.
Status, Problems, and Prospects of Civilian Reprocessing Around the World
2015 International Panel on Fissile Materials

Plutonium was first separated by the United States during the Second World 
War. Uranium was loaded into nuclear reactors, irradiated, cooled, and then 
chemically “reprocessed” in another facility to recover the plutonium. The 
reactors and the reprocessing plant were built as part of the secret atomic 
bomb project. Since then, eight other countries also have produced and 
separated plutonium for weapons. 
Starting in the 1960s, some of the nuclear-weapon states and a few non-weapon 
states started to separate plutonium for civilian use from spent fuel produced 
by power reactors. The United States ended its civilian reprocessing program 
in 1972 and the nuclearweapon states that are parties to the NPT ended their 
military reprocessing activities with the end of the Cold War. Today there 
are only a handful of countries with active civilian reprocessing programs: 
China, France, India, Japan, Russia and the United Kingdom.
This report looks at the history, current status and prospects of these 
programs. It 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 at the end 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 original objective of civilian reprocessing was to provide startup fuel 
for planned “breeder” reactors that would produce more plutonium than they 
consumed. These plutonium breeder reactors would be much more efficient at 
utilizing uranium and, throughout the 1960s, the U.S. Atomic Energy 
Commission promoted them as the solution to concerns that nuclear power 
would be limited by the availability of low-cost uranium. Large-scale 
construction of breeder reactors was expected to begin in the 1990s.
In 1974, India, which had acquired reprocessing technology — ostensibly 
for a breeder reactor program — conducted a “peaceful” nuclear explosion 
that utilized plutonium produced in a reactor supplied with U.S. heavy water.
 The U.S. government realized that civilian reprocessing was facilitating 
 nuclear-weapon proliferation and reversed its position on breeder reactors, 
 concluding within a few years that they were unnecessary and uneconomic.

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