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Unmaking the BombA Fissile Material Approach to Nuclear Disarmament and Nonproliferation$
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Harold A. Feiveson, Alexander Glaser, Zia Mian, and Frank N. von Hippel

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780262027748

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262027748.001.0001

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Disposal of Fissile Materials

Disposal of Fissile Materials

(p.159) 9 Disposal of Fissile Materials
Unmaking the Bomb

Harold A. Feiveson

The MIT Press

Since the end of the Cold War, Russia and the United States have declared substantial quantities of their highly enriched uranium and plutonium excess to any military need and agreed to dispose of them. Much more fissile material could be declared excess by each of these states and by the other nuclear weapon states. In both Russia and the United States, excess highly enriched uranium recovered from weapons is blended down to low-enriched uranium, which is then used in light water power reactor fuel. So far, almost 700 tons of excess highly enriched uranium have been blended down. The disposal of excess weapons plutonium and civilian plutonium is much more costly and more hazardous. The first choice of disposal route has been via mixed-oxide (MOX, uranium-plutonium) reactor fuel. France has pioneered this approach in recycling its separated civilian plutonium. Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States all have been less successful, however, and the United States has begun to consider other disposal options. In selecting disposal strategies, key considerations should be the degree of irreversibility being sought, materials security, cost, and international verifiability.

Keywords:   Plutonium, Highly enriched uranium, Mixed oxide (MOX) fuel, Blend-down, Fissile material disposal

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