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.