January 26, 2006

US plan would recycle spent nuclear fuel: report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration is working
on a civilian nuclear energy plan that would reprocess spent
nuclear fuel from other countries in a break from long-standing
U.S. policy, The Washington Post reported on Thursday.

The United States has adamantly opposed reprocessing spent
fuel from civilian reactors since the 1970s because it would
produce material that could be used in nuclear weapons, the
newspaper said.

The newspaper cited U.S. and foreign officials briefed on
the initiative as saying the multidecade effort would invest
research money to develop technologies intended to avoid the
risk of material being diverted for weapons use.

The White House had no immediate comment.

The main purpose for reprocessing spent fuel is to extract
the radioactive plutonium within it and use that to fuel a
reactor, the Post said.

According to the newspaper, two senior U.S. officials
traveled last week to several countries, including Japan and
Russia, to brief them about the initiative.

A senior administration official was cited as saying that
Bush had been briefed but has not given his final approval on
the plan while diplomats consult with other governments.

Officials briefed on the plan told the newspaper that $250
million would be included in the administration's fiscal 2007
budget as a down payment.

Senate Energy Committee Chairman Pete Domenici, a New
Mexico Republican, said he expected the White House to send
legislation along with the budget to be delivered to Congress
next month.

"I expect a draft bill from the administration next month
on spent nuclear fuel," Domenici was quoted as saying. "I will
introduce that bill on behalf of the president, hold a hearing
on it and mark it up in committee this spring. I hope it will
include a nuclear fuel recycling component."