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Stephen B. Gerlt, "Towards Safeguarding the Fast Breeder Reactor Fuel Cycle," NSSPI Report, NSSPI-14-001 (2014).


With increasing international interest in closed fuel cycles, it is highly probable that the technology for a closed fuel cycle will spread as the demand for it increases.  However, there is another option open to countries that wish to have a closed fuel cycle but find construction of reprocessing and/or fuel fabrication facilities economically, technologically, or politically unsound.  Such countries then be forced to have their spent thermal reactor fuel reprocessed externally in facilities run by other nations, and potentially fabricated into fuel as well.  This carries several benefits for both the client nation and the nation providing the service.

 The reduction of the number of reprocessing and fuel fabrication facilities in the world reduces overall risk of proliferation due to fewer sites to be monitored by the IAEA and fewer states having direct access to large-scale reprocessing facilities.  However, there would still be risks associated with transport of fresh fuel containing plutonium (Pu) across the border of countries.  From an economical standpoint facilities can be run at or near their capacity, ensuring for the processing nation that their financial investment in the facility is being maximized.  For the client, delays associated with learning to operate a new facility with potentially inexperienced personnel are avoided, and in general fewer delays may be expected since the processing nation is under contract to provide fuel in a timely manner and will risk losing business if unable to keep their schedule.  This is a system that already has precedent; Japan shipped spent fuel to France and the United Kingdom through 2001 and the United Arab Emirates signed a nuclear agreement that included outsourcing most of its fuel cycle.

The objective of this report is to analyze a closed fuel cycle portion in equilibrium, determine the facility most sensitive to diversion, and develop a safeguards approach for said facility.  Particular attention will be paid to instrumentation as a method of reducing the uncertainties associated with safeguards measurements. Future reports should develop approaches for other facilities, to assist in developing effective and economical methods of enacting safeguards.

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Associated Project(s):

  • Technical Analyses of the U.S.-India Nuclear Accord

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