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Fuel cycle stewardship in a nuclear renaissance

The Nuclear non-proliferation project considered the potential of new technologies and governance best practices to make the nuclear fuel cycle more secure and proliferation resistant, with a particular focus on the management of spent fuel (including interim storage, geological disposal, and reuse).

Key points of the report include:

  • A nuclear Davos. Global governance does not reflect the international reality of the nuclear industry. A CEO-led, World Nuclear Forum is now timely so that CEOs and government leaders can explore their respective views on the future development of nuclear power and responsibilities for non-proliferation and nuclear security.
  • No time for complacency. As demonstrated by the attention to nuclear safety post-Fukushima, avoiding complacency is vital to maintain confidence in a nuclear renaissance. An integrated approach to safety, security and non-proliferation risk assessment and management needs to feature more prominently at all levels of nuclear decision making from the design and regulation of nuclear facilities to the corporate governance of nuclear organisations.
  • Safeguardability remains a R&D priority. There is no proliferation proof nuclear fuel cycle. The dual use risk of nuclear materials and technology and in civil and military applications cannot be eliminated. The technical expertise of the International Atomic Energy Agency plays a central role in managing this dual use. Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of international safeguards remains a priority for non-proliferation Research and Development (R&D).
  • Strategic planning from cradle to grave. The management of spent fuel and radioactive waste must no longer be an afterthought. The entire fuel cycle needs to be considered from cradle to grave. Best practice based on 50 years of operational experience must be implemented. International options for spent fuel management should not be overlooked. Comprehensive cradle to grave fuel cycle services that couple the supply of fresh fuel with the management of spent fuel and radioactive wastes could be attractive to some countries in preference to developing their own national fuel cycle facilities. This could provide a key non-proliferation incentive that offers major security benefits.
  • Reversing the UK’s declining role in the development of nuclear power. The UK’s long term ambitions for nuclear power need to be clearly articulated and implemented. Enhanced support for the UK’s research infrastructure is also necessary if the UK is to remain influential in debates on non-proliferation and nuclear security.