Reprocessing Atomic Waste Slows Repository Need, Areva Says

Creating a facility to reprocess spent nuclear fuel would put off for 50 years the need to open a permanent waste repository, the head of Areva SA’s U.S unit said.

A U.S. recycling plant proposed by the company, which may cost $20 billion to $30 billion, would postpone debate over reviving an abandoned facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, Jacques Besnainou, chief executive officer of Areva Inc., said today at a breakfast in Washington.

“This would delay the decision on Yucca for 50 years,” Besnainou said.

Areva, based in Paris and the world’s largest supplier of nuclear equipment, already recycles spent nuclear fuel in Europe. The U.S. reprocessing facility, which may be operating by 2025, would create thousands of jobs in the community where it is built, Besnainou said.

President Barack Obama in 2009 decided to cancel funding for Yucca Mountain, and named a panel to develop alternatives. The 15-member Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future has studied storage options and is scheduled to release a draft report July 29.

A commission subcommittee said in May that the panel should urge one or more temporary sites for nuclear waste. Such facilities would store fuel for about 100 years, giving officials time to determine whether to recycle used fuel or move it to a permanent site, according to a subcommittee report.

“An interim storage facility is kicking the can down the road,” Besnainou said.

House Republicans proposed last week allocating $35 million from the 2012 federal budget for Yucca Mountain.

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