Constraining Production of Weapons-Usable Material

FEATURED ITEMS

Rethinking Chinese Policy on Commercial Reprocessing
March 2012 | Paper
Harvard Kennedy School | Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
By Hui Zhang

This paper discusses the status of China’s nuclear power reactors, breeders, and civilian reprocessing programs. In addition, this paper examines whether the breeders and civilian reprocessing programs make sense for China, taking into account costs, proliferation risks, energy security tradeoffs, health and environmental risks, and spent fuel management issues. (click here to view)

China's Spent Nuclear Fuel Management: Current Practices and Future Strategies
July 2011 | Journal Article
Energy Policy
By Yun Zhou

"Although China's nuclear power industry is relatively young and the management of its spent nuclear fuel is not yet a concern, China’s commitment to nuclear energy and its rapid pace of development require detailed analyses of its future spent fuel management policies. The purpose of this study is to provide an overview of China's fuel cycle program and its reprocessing policy, and to suggest strategies for managing its future fuel cycle program." (click here to view)

The Economics of Reprocessing vs. Direct Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel
December 2003 | Report
Harvard Kennedy School | Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
By Matthew Bunn, Steve Fetter, John P. Holdren, and Bob van der Zwaan

While some analysts have argued in recent years that the costs of reprocessing and direct disposal are similar, and that reprocessing will soon be the more cost-effective approach as uranium prices increase, the data and analyses presented in this report demonstrate that the margin between the cost of reprocessing and recycling and that of direct disposal is wide, and is likely to persist for many decades to come. (click here to view)

Interim Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel: A Safe, Flexible, and Cost-Effective Near-Term Approach to Spent Fuel Management
June 2001 | Report
Harvard Kennedy School | Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs | University of Tokyo
By Matthew Bunn, John P. Holdren, Allison Macfarlane, Susan E. Pickett, Atsuyuki Suzuki, Tatsujiro Suzuki, and Jennifer Weeks

The management of spent fuel from nuclear power plants has become a major policy issue for virtually every nuclear power program in the world….This report is intended to: clarify the current economic and technological status of interim storage of spent fuel in the United States, Japan, and worldwide; illuminate the institutional, legal and political issues with regard to spent fuel storage and its relationship with basic nuclear energy and nonproliferation policies; explore possible policy options to overcome obstacles to interim storage of spent fuel, and assess the advantages and disadvantages of various approaches to both domestic and international spent fuel storage. On the basis of the analysis in this report, we offer the conclusions and recommendations outlined below. (click here to view)

Mistakes to be Avoided in Planning and Regulating Reprocessing
January 2013 | Presentation
Harvard Kennedy School | Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
By Matthew Bunn

Presentation by Matthew Bunn on mistakes to be avoided in planning and regulating reprocessing presented at the Workshop on Safety and Security of Fuel Cycle Facilities in Shenzhen, China. (click here to view)

The Uncertain Future of Nuclear Energy
September 2010 | Report
International Panel on Fissile Materials
Edited by Frank von Hippel

"Today, the official high-growth projection of the Organization for Economic Co‑operation and Developments (OECD) Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) estimates that nuclear power plants will generate about 20 percent of all electrical energy in 2050. Thus, nuclear power could make a significant contribution to the global electricity supply. Or it could be phased out — especially if there is another accidental or a terrorist-caused Chernobyl-scale release of radioactivity. If the spread of nuclear energy cannot be decoupled from the spread of nuclear weapons, it should be phased out." (click here to view)

OTHER RESOURCES

Ending Reprocessing in Japan: An Alternative Approach to Managing Japan's Spent Nuclear Fuel and Separated Plutonium
November 2013 | Report
International Panel on Fissile Materials
By Frank N. von Hippel and Masafumi Takubo

"Japan finds itself trapped politically in a spent fuel reprocessing policy that has insignificant resource conservation and radioactive waste management benefits and is becoming increasingly dysfunctional, dangerous and costly. This paper proposes a way out of this reprocessing quagmire and alternative disposal methods for Japan’s accumulated plutonium." (click here to view)

Safeguards for Pyroprocessing Plants
March 2013 | Video Presentation
By Olli Heinonen

Pyroprocessing differs from PUREX (plutonium-uranium extraction) reprocessing, which has been used commercially for decades in nuclear energy and weapons programs around the world. In pyroprocessing, the plutonium separated from spent fuel remains mixed with other elements. South Korean officials have argued that this difference makes pyroprocessing more proliferation resistant than traditional reprocessing. However, key pyroprocessing steps still pose a proliferation risk. (click here to view)

Progress on Securing Nuclear Weapons and Materials: The Four-Year Effort and Beyond
March 2012 | Report
Harvard Kennedy School | Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
By Matthew Bunn, Eben Harrell, and Martin B. Malin

Released prior to the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit, this report assessed the status of the international initiative to secure all vulnerable nuclear stockpiles and provided recommendations for making further progress. (click here to view)

China's Plutonium Recycling: Policy Considerations
March 2012 | Presentation
By Hui Zhang

A presentation at the International Symposium on Nuclear Security and the Korean Peninsula on the policy considerations of China's plutonium recycling plans. (click here to view)

Limiting Transfers of Enrichment and Reprocessing Technology: Issues, Constraints, Options
May 2011 | Report
Harvard Kennedy School | Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
By Fred McGoldrick with contributions from Matthew Bunn, Martin B. Malin, and William H. Tobey

For several years, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) has been unable to reach a consensus on the adoption of revised guidelines for its members. The most contentious issue is how to strengthen restraints on the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technologies in a manner that would be acceptable to all NSG members, and credible to the major exporting states and industry. In this report, Fred McGoldrick, offers a set of options for policy makers intended to help catalyze a more productive discussion both within the NSG and beyond it. (click here to view)

The Non-State Actor Nuclear Supply Chain
April 2011 | Presentation
By Matthew Bunn and William H. Tobey

This presentation describes how non-state actors have engaged in the illicit trade of nuclear material and technology, presents lessons learned, and makes recommendations for deterring such activities. (click here to view)

The Security Implications of China's Nuclear Energy Expansion
June 2010 | Journal Article
The Nonproliferation Review 
By Yun Zhou

"This report examines and evaluates security measures at Chinese civilian nuclear power plants and suggests ways to improve them. It also reviews current export control policies and systems, identifies likely challenges to the expanding nuclear sector, and proposes possible solutions." (click here to view)

Enabling a Nuclear Revival - and Managing Its Risks
Fall 2009 | Journal Article
Innovations
By Matthew Bunn and Martin B. Malin

In this article, Matthew Bunn and Martin B. Malin examine the conditions needed for nuclear energy to grow on a scale large enough for it to be a significant part of the world’s response to climate change. They consider the safety, security, nonproliferation, and waste management risks associated with such growth and recommend approaches to managing these risks. Bunn and Malin argue that although technological solutions may contribute to nuclear expansion in the coming decades, in the near term, creating the conditions for large-scale nuclear energy growth will require major international institutional innovation. (click here to view)

Risks of GNEP’s Focus on Near-Term Reprocessing
November 2007 | Testimony
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources | U.S. Senate
By Matthew Bunn

Matthew Bunn testified, in part, "A key GNEP goal is to expand global reliance on nuclear energy without increasing proliferation risks. Controlling the spread of enrichment and reprocessing — the technologies that make it possible to produce nuclear bomb material — is a critical part of achieving that objective. Some elements of GNEP could make important contributions to reducing proliferation risks. Unfortunately, GNEP's heavy focus on building a commercial-scale reprocessing plant in the near term would, if accepted, increase proliferation risks rather than decreasing them." (click here to view)

Assessing the Benefits, Costs, and Risks of Near-Term Reprocessing and Alternatives
September 2006 | Testimony
Subcommittee on Energy and Water Appropriations | U.S. Senate
By Matthew Bunn

Testimony by Matthew Bunn at the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Energy and Water Appropriations. (click here to view)