Dr. Hannum retired after more than 40 years in nuclear power development, stretching from design and analysis of the Shippingport reactor to the Integral Fast Reactor.  He earned his BA in physics at Princeton and his MS and PhD in nuclear physics at Yale.  He has held key management positions with the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE),  in reactor physics , reactor safety, and as Deputy Manager of the Idaho Operations Office.  He served as Deputy Director General of the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency, Paris, France; Chairman of the TVA Nuclear Safety Review Boards, and Director of the West Valley (high level nuclear waste processing and D&D) Demonstration Project.  Dr. Hannum is a fellow of the American Nuclear Society, and has served as a consultant to the National Academy of Engineering on nuclear proliferation issues.

by William Hannum

Dear Congressman Garamendi,

Some weeks ago, Chuck Till distributed a definitive technical analysis that included a discussion of why the IFR presented a very limited safeguards challenge.  This was in part in response to your request at the "Summit in the Sand."  For those who may not wish to go through his analysis, I thought a much more qualitative representation of the issue might be useful.  Attached is a rather simplistic essay I have prepared, on Safeguarding the Nuclear Fuel Cycle.  The abstract and Summary reads as follows:

 

The purpose of this essay is to compare the safeguards challenges presented by two nuclear recycle approaches, relative to the current U. S. approach of a once-through fuel cycle.  If these nuclear fuel cycles are evaluated solely on the basis of the safeguards needed, one finds the following:

PUREX recycle offers no safeguarding advantage over the once-through fuel cycle.  Beyond that, this approach presents a significant concern over handling of separated plutonium in the power plant environment.  Since chemically pure Pu is inherent in the PUREX process, safeguards inspections must be highly intrusive.

Adding recycling fast reactors with pyroprocessing (ìPYROî) to an existing fleet of LWRs absorbs all of the plutonium produced by LWRs.  There will be no inventories of plutonium other than what is in active use. PYRO is a new class of facility requiring safeguards, but batch-process inventory controls, coupled with a simple mechanical layout, will make the inspectorsí job more straightforward than for a PUREX facility.  The facility for recovering usable material from used LWR fuel may require safeguards similar in approach to those in PUREX facilities, but no separated plutonium will be involved.  If plutonium were to be diverted from a PYRO facility or from the LWR recovery facility, it would be useless (for weapons use) without further processing in an otherwise unneeded PUREX type of facility.

Realistically, a full transition to recycling fast reactors is a process that will take decades.  However, if all the LWRs were retired and replaced with recycling fast reactors, in addition to the above advantages, there would be no further need for uranium enrichment.


Hannum

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