Managing the Nuclear Fuel Cycle: Policy Implications of Expanding Global Access to Nuclear Power [Updated March 7, 2008]   [open pdf - 573KB]

"After several decades of decline and disfavor, nuclear power is attracting renewed interest. New permit applications for 30 reactors have been filed in the United States, and another 150 are planned or proposed globally, with about a dozen more already under construction. In the United States, interest appears driven, in part, by provisions in the 2005 Energy Policy Act authorizing streamlined licensing that combine construction and operating permits, and tax credits for production from advanced nuclear power facilities. Moreover, the U.S. Department of Energy proposes to spend billions of dollars to develop the next generation of nuclear power technology. Expanding global access to nuclear power, nevertheless, has the potential to lead to the spread of sensitive nuclear technology. Despite 30 years of effort to limit access to uranium enrichment, several undeterred states pursued clandestine nuclear programs; the A.Q. Khan black market network's sales to Iran and North Korea representing the most egregious examples. Concern over the spread of enrichment and reprocessing technologies, combined with a growing consensus that the world must seek alternatives to dwindling and polluting fossil fuels, may be giving way to optimism that advanced nuclear technologies may offer proliferation resistance. Proposals offering countries access to nuclear power and thus the fuel cycle have ranged from a formal commitment by these countries to forswear enrichment and reprocessing technology, to a de facto approach in which a state does not operate fuel cycle facilities but makes no explicit commitment, to no restrictions at all."

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CRS Report for Congress, RL34234
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