February 13, 2006

Recycling nuke fuel may thwart terrorism: Bodman

By Tom Doggett

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration's plan to
recycle spent nuclear fuel could thwart recruitment efforts by
terrorist groups in poor countries by providing impoverished
nations with affordable electricity supplies that would improve
their economies and the lives of their citizens, U.S. Energy
Secretary Sam Bodman said on Monday.

The administration has asked Congress for $250 million in
the Energy Department's 2007 budget to develop technology for
reprocessing the thousands of tons of spent nuclear fuel stored
at U.S. nuclear power plants, which could be supplied to
countries as fuel for their new power reactors that would
generate electricity.

Bodman said the administration's nuclear recycling plan
could particularly help underdeveloped nations, which have
"frequently served as safe havens for terrorists and other
fanatics," such as the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and Osama
bin Laden's initial home base in Sudan.

"Even if we are able to quickly and resoundingly defeat the
terrorist threat we currently face, we will still be confronted
with the desperate, grinding poverty that grips so much of the
world," Bodman said in a speech to the Platt's nuclear energy

He said if these underdeveloped nations are to build
thriving economies and achieve lasting prosperity, they will
need access to reliable energy supplies, especially
electricity, which could be met with the proposed nuclear fuel
recycling program.

"We can abandon the world's underdeveloped nations to
poverty and squalor, and stand by while they struggle to meet
their growing energy needs with fossil fuels. Or we can work in
cooperation with other nuclear fuel-cycle states to provide
these nations with commercially attractive, safe and
proliferation-resistant sources of nuclear energy," Bodman

Reprocessing spent nuclear fuel was abandoned by the United
States decades ago because it was too expensive and there was
fear extremist groups or rogue nations could gain access to the
plutonium and make nuclear bombs.

However, the administration wants to use new technology so
the plutonium in the recycled fuel would remain bound with
other highly radioactive materials, making it less useful for
nuclear weapons and reducing security concerns.

Reprocessing separates uranium and plutonium from spent
fuel so the elements could be used further.

President Jimmy Carter banned reprocessing because of
concerns it could spread nuclear weapons. President Ronald
Reagan lifted the ban and President Bill Clinton reinstated it.