Nuclear Fuel Cycle

Increasing global electricity demand combined with growing concern about the climate effects of fossil fuel are creating a renewed worldwide interest in nuclear power.  A nuclear power industry inevitably creates a potential for increased risk of nuclear weapons proliferation.

The nuclear reactors are not the major concern – rather it is the nuclear fuel. Today’s nuclear reactors use uranium fuel with an enhanced concentration, or enrichment, of the active isotope of uranium U-235. The process of enriching uranium for nuclear fuel uses precisely the same equipment as could be used to produce the much higher concentrations needed for a nuclear bomb. As the fuel is burned in a reactor, plutonium is formed.  If the nuclear waste is reprocessed, the plutonium is extracted and it can also be used to power a nuclear bomb.

If the use world is to see a more widespread use of nuclear power, the nuclear fuel cycle must be closely monitored or there will be a widely proliferated nuclear weapons capability.