Don’t Bury Spent Nuclear Fuel in Yucca Mountain. Recycle It. And Use It in Advanced Reactors for A Thousand Years of U.S. Clean Power.


By: Colonel Robert E. Frank, USAF (Ret.)
Chairman and Co-Founder, Nevadans CAN (Citizen Action Network)

Thirty years ago, there were no iPhones, no WIFI, few solar or wind farms and no six-figure electric cars that won drag races and could go over 140 mph. The growth of technology and the positive changes that have come about for humankind cannot be overstated. Advanced, “Small Modular Reactor (SMR)” technologies and options for safely handling and efficient recycling of spent nuclear fuel have dramatically changed as well.

The advanced reactors no longer require huge volumes of circulating external water to cool them. They can be independently installed anywhere in remote or populated areas where power is needed. They can produce uninterruptible power for 24/7/365 at varying levels for up to 30 years without needing more recycled fuel.

SMRs are made on production lines, use sealed cooling systems (liquid lead, etc.) that are “walk-away-safe”, emit no CO2 or other harmful pollutants, and can be designed to be installed underground in tamper-resistant clusters to suit current and future needs. Micro-SMRs could be designed to be transported by surface or air in support of military operations and civilian emergency needs (such as when power is lost due to hurricanes and earthquakes).

Nevada has been an international pioneer in nuclear technology and it is a tragedy that such expertise is not being used to create future economic growth for the state. Nevada needs to negotiate a win-win-win solution with The Congress and The Administration that implements a National Carbon-Free Energy Center near Yucca Mountain that starts with a Joint National Nuclear Recycling Center to quickly upgrade the long-term repository plan.

Such a joint, national nuclear fuel recycling plant could be built at a small fraction of the cost to build and operate a million-year storage facility. And, the health and safety issues related to extremely long-term storage in Yucca Mountain would be avoided. The recycled fuel would be owned by the joint enterprise. It could be sold to both current and advanced nuclear reactor operators.

This forward-looking, common sense plan could put the state on a path to become a national leader in engineering and development of multiple types of Carbon-Free Energy that includes new fuels for the emerging new reactor technologies. For more information, see