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Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP): A waste reprocessing site in Illinois?

The Department of Energy's GNEP - Global Nuclear Energy Partnership - program involves recycling of spent fuel, which still contains plutonium (and leftover Uranium) that can be used in nuclear reactions. The (metallic) plutonium is scattered, atom by atom, inside Uranium Dioxide pellets. Because Uranium Dioxide is a ceramic, teasing them out is very difficult; currently there is no fuel reprocessing in the US because of the various difficulties involved.

Our Friends at Greenpeace have summed it up pretty well:

"The Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) is the Bush Administration’s plan for expanding the nuclear power industry in the U.S. and around the globe. If President Bush’s plan works as advertised, it would reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, improve the environment by reducing CO2 emissions, encourage clean development around the world and reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation.

To achieve this President Bush’s Global Nuclear Energy Partnership would include: a new generation of nuclear plants in the U.S., the reprocessing of nuclear waste and a fast reactor demonstration project that would use the reprocessed waste as fuel. Under GNEP, nuclear nations would sell non nuclear countries reactors and provide the nuclear fuel and then accept the radioactive waste back for reprocessing and eventually disposal.

However, the Bush Administration has yet to convince even those who support nuclear power that GNEP is a good idea. John Deutsch of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a former Department of Energy official and the co-author of the MIT report on the future of nuclear power, told the National Academies of Science that the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership is “a goofy idea.” "

Of particular interest to citizens of Illiois - aside from all generic problems inherent in promoting nuclear power, especially overseas where it increases the risk that countries we like right now (remember when Iran was our friend?) will develop Weapons of Mass Destruction, is the fact that a fuel reprocessing site may be located here in Illinois.

Cook County Passes Resolution Opposing GNEP

The Cook County Board has just passed a "Resolution Opposing the Consideration by the Department of Energy to Design, Build, or Operate an Advanced Fuel Cycle Research Facility at Illinois Sites.

Interestingly, they point out that Illinois Law prohibits construction of any new Nuclear Facilities in Illinois until such time as the problem of Nuclear Waste has been solved.

You can read the text of the resolution here.

You can read an NEIS press release about the resolution here.

Here are some links to GNEP related items:


NEIS Fact Sheet about GNEP about the GNEP program

Propagandists are misusing Environmental Justice considerations, claiming that GNEP is the fairest waste solution for rural areas; NEIS Director Kraft refutes that idea.

NEIS Testimony to the Department of Energy about the GNEP program

NEIS Press Release about GNEP

Public Citizen Documents on GNEP

NIRS website section on reprocessing

Union of Concerned Scientists on GNEP

DOE website:


What you can do about GNEP - courtesy of Public Citizen

Flyer for a community meeting in Naperville, Il on Friday, April 20th, 6:00 – 8:30 pm at the Nichols Library

You may also submit comments on the GNEP proposal (by April 4, 2007) Mail to Mr. Timothy A. Frazier, GNEP PEIS Document Manager, Office of Nuclear Energy, U.S. Department of Energy, 1000 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20585-0119 Via telephone: 866-645-7803 Via fax: 866-645-7807 By e-mail at


GNEP Press Coverage:

Here is some recent press coverage:

Chicago Tribune
"Nuclear recycling plan hit Pollution, terrorism cited at Joliet hearing on using civilian sites for waste recycling"
By Hal Dardick, Tribune staff reporter,1,2410994,print.story?coll=chi-newslocal-hed

Joliet Herald News
February 23, 2007
By Christina Chapman, Staff Writer,4_1_JO23_NUCLEAR_S1.article

The Daily Journal
200 attend meeting about waste-recycling site at Morris
By Jon Krenek 815-937-3370

Chicago Sun Times
February 22, 2007Hot rods
BY Jim Ritter, Health Reporter,CST-NWS-contro22.articleprint

Morris Daily Herald
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Anti-nuclear forces oppose recycling idea, Plan to voice objections during meeting tonight
By Jo Ann Hustis, Herald Reporter

Nuclear hearing in Joliet; Federal officials seek to recycle

Chicago Tribune
February 22, 2007
By Ted Gregory and Robert Manor, Tribune staff reporters

A controversial federal proposal for nuclear energy expansion will stop in Joliet Thursday night, when the U.S. Department of Energy holds a public hearing on the environmental impact of placing nuclear recycling facilities in the area.

It is the latest turn in an initiative announced by President Bush in January 2006 that seeks to broaden nuclear power use for civilian reactors.

Argonne National Laboratory, near Lemont, and a General Electric Co. site near Morris are being considered for the program. Argonne would house a research and development facility and the G.E. site would house a plant that would reprocess radioactive waste into useable fuel.

Supporters of Bush's initiative, called the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, say the program would offset rising oil and natural gas prices while lowering emissions.

Detractors say the plants soon would be dealing with storing and disposing radioactive waste while the program would make it easier for terrorists to acquire nuclear weapons materials.

The Energy Department is calling Thursday's hearing a "public scoping meeting," in which officials gather residents' environmental concerns about placing a GNEP facility in the area.

When Bush announced the creation of GNEP, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman hailed it as a way to "extract more energy from nuclear fuel, reduce the amount of waste that requires permanent disposal and greatly reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation. "If we can make GNEP a reality," Bodman said at the time, "we can make the world a better, cleaner and safer place to live."

The Union of Concerned Scientists, however, contends that "reprocessing would make it easier for terrorists to acquire nuclear weapons materials and for nations to develop nuclear weapons programs."

Government dismisses risks

But Dennis Spurgeon, assistant secretary for nuclear energy at the department, called the terrorist threat "a red herring that simply is not true."

The GNEP would establish a tightly monitored, international network of nuclear nations. Spurgeon noted that countries participating in the partnership, including China, France, Britain, Japan and Russia, already recycle spent nuclear fuel.

GNEP would modify the production of waste to render that waste less potent than pure plutonium, making it unusable "in an immediate sense" for weapons production, Spurgeon said.

Nuclear critics also warn that if Morris or any other community accepts a nuclear-fuel reprocessing plant, it likely would be the nation's sole disposal site for radioactive waste for years to come.

Edwin Lyman, senior staff scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said that although reprocessing spent nuclear fuel somewhat reduces its volume, a substantial amount of waste remains and will remain radioactive for decades.

"Whatever community that accepts this facility is virtually guaranteeing they will become a long-term waste dump," Lyman said.

Spurgeon rejected that contention. He noted that recycling reduces the amount of waste to dispose of, and reprocessing shortens the hazardous life span of harmful radioactive materials.

Spent nuclear fuel currently is stored in large pools of water or in massive concrete casks onsite at the nation's 103 nuclear plants. That radioactive waste would be the source of the fuel used by the three proposed reprocessing plants.

Federal officials acknowledge GNEP is a significant change in federal energy policy, which for decades has balked at the expansion of nuclear power.

A total of 13 sites in eight states applied to be considered for the reprocessing facilities. The Energy Department will choose the sites on which it will build a research and development facility, a recycling center and an advanced reactor that would process the recycled fuel to make electricity.

Officials weighing options

Federal officials plan to choose the research and development site by the summer of 2008 and start construction in 2011, said department spokesman Brian Quirke.

The department will decide the placement of the recycling center and advanced reactor by the summer of 2009, Quirke said.

Federal officials are considering building the recycling center and advanced reactor on the G.E. site, where a nuclear reprocessing center was built years ago but never operated. The site includes a functioning nuclear-waste storage pool.

Argonne is being considered for the research and development center, which would examine spent nuclear-fuel reprocessing and other advanced nuclear fuel cycles.

Thursday's hearing will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Barber and Oberwortmann Horticultural Center 227 N. Gougar Rd., Joliet.

It will begin with the Energy Department's overview of the program, followed by public comment.

Department officials will not respond to arguments or questions, but merely accept information, Quirke said.


And a note from NEIS - "Department officials will not respond to arguments or questions" pretty much sums up the NRC these days ...