Managing the Nuclear Fuel Cycle: Policy Implications of Expanding Global Access to Nuclear Power [September 12, 2011] [open pdf - 654KB]
"After several decades of widespread stagnation, nuclear power has attracted renewed interest in recent years. New license applications for 30 reactors have been announced in the United States, and another 541 are under construction, planned, or proposed around the world. In the United States, interest appears driven, in part, by tax credits, loan guarantees, and other incentives in the 2005 Energy Policy Act, as well as by concerns about carbon emissions from competing fossil fuel technologies. A major concern about the global expansion of nuclear power is the potential spread of nuclear fuel cycle technology--particularly uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing--that could be used for nuclear weapons. 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. However, concern over the spread of enrichment and reprocessing technologies may be offset by support for nuclear power as a cleaner and more secure alternative to fossil fuels. […] Congress will have a considerable role in at least four areas of oversight related to fuel cycle proposals. The first is providing funding and oversight of U.S. domestic programs related to expanding nuclear energy in the United States. The second area is policy direction and/or funding for international measures to assure supply. A third set of policy issues may arise in the context of U.S. participation in IFNEC [International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation] or related initiatives. A fourth area in which Congress plays a key role is in the approval of nuclear cooperation agreements. Significant interest in these issues is expected to continue in the 112th Congress."
CRS Report for Congress, RL34234