GEH Proposes Recycling Nuclear Fuel

As the White House and U.S. Congress create a new national strategy for managing used nuclear fuel, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) is encouraging lawmakers to support the research and development necessary for recycling nuclear fuel, according to a June 18 press release.

Lisa Price, a GEH senior vice president, briefed lawmakers at a House Science & Technology Committee meeting on the company's proposed Advanced Recycling Center (ARC).

As the only nuclear reactor vendor that is majority-owned by a U.S. company, GEH is offering the ARC, which would put U.S. technology to work to improve economic prosperity through job creation, enhance national security, help curb greenhouse gas emissions, and provide an opportunity to regain the historical U.S. leadership position in nuclear science and technology.

The ARC—comprised of a "PRISM" sodium-cooled reactor, combined with an electrometallurgical or dry nuclear fuel recycling facility—is being evaluated by the U.S. Department of Energy and Congress as the government considers a new long-term strategy for used nuclear fuel.

Currently, used fuel is stored in special pools or in dry casks installed at nuclear power plant sites. Approximately 95 percent of the material in used nuclear fuel from light water reactors is considered untapped energy that could be used to generate electricity in different kinds of next-generation nuclear reactors, such as GEH's "Generation IV" PRISM design.

The proposed ARC system would permit much of this remaining used fuel to be recycled in the PRISM reactor to generate additional electricity for consumers. As a result, utilities also could reduce the amount of used fuel that needs to be stored on-site.

"Our efforts have led us to conclude that the recycling approach is the best science-based solution," Price said, noting nuclear power supplies approximately 20 percent of the country's electricity, and many other countries are pursuing nuclear power to meet their growing energy needs.

Based in Wilmington, N.C., GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy provides advanced reactors and nuclear services. Established in June 2007, GEH is a global nuclear alliance created by GE and Hitachi to serve the global nuclear industry.

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