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Civil society groups urge feds to ban reprocessing used nuclear fuel.

Natasha Bulowski / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer, 30 Dec 22,

Canada’s forthcoming radioactive waste policy should include a ban on plutonium reprocessing, a national alliance of civil society organizations says.

Plutonium — a radioactive, silvery metal used in nuclear weapons and power plants — can be separated from spent nuclear reactor fuel through a process known as “reprocessing” and reused to produce weapons or generate energy.

The federal government is expected to release its policy for managing radioactive waste early next year. On Dec. 15, a handful of organizations urged Ottawa to include a ban on plutonium reprocessing because of its links to nuclear weapons proliferation and environmental contamination.

The World Nuclear Association says reprocessing used fuel to recover uranium and plutonium “avoids the wastage of a valuable resource.”

Ottawa has yet to take a definitive stance on the process. A draft policy released last February said: “Deployment of reprocessing technology … is subject to policy approval by the Government of Canada.”

But in 2021, a New Brunswick company, Moltex Energy, received $50.5 million from the federal coffers to help design and commercialize a molten salt reactor and spent fuel reprocessing facility. Commercial plutonium reprocessing has never been carried out in Canada, and we should not start now, according to Nuclear Waste Watch, a national network of Canadian organizations concerned about high-level radioactive waste and nuclear power. The group is among those pushing for a plutonium reprocessing ban.

More than 7,000 Canadians submitted letters including a demand to ban plutonium reprocessing throughout the consultation process, according to a Nuclear Waste Watch news release.

The group points to a 2016 report by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories stating reprocessing would “increase proliferation risk.”

“There is no legitimate reason to support technologies that create the potential for new countries to separate plutonium and develop nuclear weapons,” Susan O’Donnell, spokesperson for the Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick, said in Nuclear Waste Watch’s news release. “The government should stop supporting this dangerous technology.”

China, India, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and some European countries, like France, reprocess their spent nuclear fuel.

Canada’s forthcoming radioactive waste policy should include a ban on plutonium reprocessing, a national alliance of civil society organizations says. Plutonium separated from used nuclear fuel can be reused in power generation or nuclear weapons

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December 31, 2022 - Posted by | Canada, opposition to nuclear, reprocessing

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