WASHINGTON — At the dawn of the civilian nuclear age in the 1950s, one of the pressing questions was how to find enough fuel for reactors and bombs. The government and the private sector seized on a man-made substitute for natural uranium, producing about 3,400 pounds of an exotic and expensive material called uranium 233.
Today, the problem is how to safely get rid of it.
Now, wary of the security risks posed by the stockpiles, the Energy Department is making plans to dispose of them at a cost estimated at $473 million. The department faces other disposal challenges, including how to handle tens of thousands of tons of spent fuel from civilian reactors, but uranium 233 is different, given that in the proper form it could easily be used to make a bomb.
Robert Alvarez, a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies who was an Energy Department adviser during the Clinton administration, estimates that the government spent at least $5.5 billion, accounting for inflation, to produce the uranium 233. He contends that the government is poised to compound its original error in making the material by disposing of it in a way that is not secure.
Continue reading at Uranium Substitute Is No Longer Needed, but Its Disposal May Pose Security Risk