U.S. May Import German Atomic Waste, Citing Nonproliferation Goals

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Global Security Newswire Staff
June 6, 2014, 9:58 a.m.

The United States is con­sid­er­ing ac­cept­ing a quant­ity of Ger­man nuc­le­ar waste for con­ver­sion in­to a pro­lif­er­a­tion-res­ist­ant form.

The U.S. En­ergy De­part­ment on Wed­nes­day said it would weigh the en­vir­on­ment­al im­plic­a­tions of ac­cept­ing Ger­man spent atom­ic fuel con­tain­ing highly en­riched urani­um — something the United States is thought to have nev­er done be­fore, Re­u­ters re­por­ted.

Un­der the pro­posed plan, a ship­ment of nearly 2,000 pounds of U.S.-ori­gin urani­um would be re­pat­ri­ated from Ger­many to the Sa­van­nah River Site in South Car­o­lina. The de­part­ment said it is in­ter­ested in con­vert­ing the spent fuel in­to a form that would be more dif­fi­cult to use in a nuc­le­ar weapon.

The Sa­van­nah River Site is de­vel­op­ing a pro­cess for re­mov­ing the urani­um in spent nuc­le­ar fuel.

Some op­pon­ents of the po­ten­tial waste trans­fer ar­gue that En­ergy has not put forth a de­tailed plan for how it will dis­pose of the ma­ter­i­al. “They’re pro­pos­ing to ex­tract the urani­um and re­use it as fuel by a pro­cess that has nev­er been done be­fore,” said Tom Cle­m­ents, who heads an anti-nuc­le­ar group that mon­it­ors the Sa­van­nah River Site.

“There’s no place to take high-level waste in the U.S.,” Cle­m­ents said. “Urani­um that is turned in­to com­mer­cial fuel is not con­tained in­side nuc­le­ar waste. It’s pure ma­ter­i­al.”

The Sa­van­nah River Site presently houses mil­lions of gal­lons of ra­dio­act­ive nuc­le­ar-arms waste held in con­tain­ers, which state of­fi­cials say are in danger of leak­ing in­to the nearby ground­wa­ter.

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