China makes major breakthrough in spent nuclear fuel reprocessing

By Dorothy Davis

Chinese scientists have successfully mastered the technology for reprocessing spent nuclear fuel, China Central Television (CCTV) has reported.

The reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel reduces the need for freshly mined uranium resources used to power nuclear plants by extending the fuel that can be generated through the recovery of unused uranium and plutonium.

Although the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel is something that is already being utilized in several other countries, such as the UK, France, Japan and Russia; each country’s process is considered a highly sensitive industrial secret as the method used to extract plutonium can also be used in the creation of nuclear weapons.

CCTV also reported that China currently has enough known uranium to last between 50 and 70 years, which would have driven a need for the country to import as much as 60 percent of its uranium resources by the end of the next decade when only accounting for a conservative growth in nuclear development during that time. With this recent breakthrough China could now yield enough fuel to last almost 3,000 years. 

According to the World Nuclear Assocaition, China currently has 13 operating nuclear power plants and 25 under construction.  Additional reactors are planned, including some of the world's most advanced, to give more than a ten fold increase in nuclear capacity to 80 GWe by 2020, 200 GWe by 2030, and 400 GWe by 2050


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