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Argument: New nuclear energy systems reduce risks of weapons use

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Supporting evidence

  • Max Schulz. "Nuclear Power Is the Future". Wilson Quarterly. Fall, 2006 - "Critics also cite concerns about the spread of dangerous nuclear waste that can be used to manufacture nuclear weapons. But the latest technology research is geared toward developing systems that resist proliferation. China and Russia are expected to join the United States, France, Canada, Japan, Britain, and other nations later this year in the Generation IV effort, an international consortium explicitly devoted to fostering technologies that limit proliferation ­risks.
Meanwhile, South Africa and China are pioneering the development of smaller, “­pebble-­bed” reactors that operate differently from reactors typically found in the United States. ­Pebble-­bed reactors use ­uranium-­specked graphite balls, rather than rods, for fuel. Conventional fuel rod assemblies must be removed before they are completely used up, but ­pebble-­bed fuel balls burn until they are depleted, lessening the chance for trafficking in dangerous nuclear ­waste.
In addition, the Bush administration has proposed a new method for reprocessing spent nuclear fuel. Reprocessing traditionally has entailed recycling the remaining uranium from spent fuel rods after removal from a reactor and using it as additional fuel. But the procedure used to separate the uranium for reuse also produces small amounts of ­weapons-­grade plutonium. For that reason, President Jimmy Carter banned the reuse of spent fuel in the United States as a proliferation risk. Today, spent nuclear fuel is stored on-site at nuclear plants, awaiting final disposal upon the completion of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in the Nevada ­desert.
The Bush proposal, however, seeks to develop a promising new technology for recycling spent fuel in a manner that renders the material suitable for use as nuclear fuel but not for use in nuclear weapons, thereby eliminating the risk. If successful, this technology could not only help make nuclear energy safer, but could also extend its benefits to the far reaches of the ­globe.
The equation skews more decidedly in favor of nuclear power with the introduction of the environment as a factor. Electricity generated by nuclear power plants gives off no emissions: no sulfur, no mercury, and, most important, none of the greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), thought to contribute to climate ­change."

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