Press Release

American Academy report offers fuel-cycle strategy to deal with spread of peaceful nuclear energy


CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Increased multilateral collaboration on issues like spent fuel storage and disposal could alleviate nuclear proliferation risks arising from an expansion of nuclear power around the world, according to a report from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The Back-End of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle: An Innovative Storage Concept, from the Academy’s Global Nuclear Future Initiative, stresses the importance of increased cooperation and adoption of modern technology among emerging nuclear states in areas including the Middle East and South and East Asia. Proactively consolidating states’ back-end fuel cycles as plans are being made to bring new nuclear energy programs online would help promote safety, discourage illicit behavior, and inhibit reliance on outdated technology, the report says.

“The time has come to discuss tangible as well as intangible incentives to support a proliferation-resistant fuel assurance regime,” according to the report. “Commercial, nonproliferation, and sovereign interests all have to be a part of the conversation.”

The report proposes a regional storage concept for spent fuel under which an independent installation would be created and maintained as a business venture, and monitored by an international governing entity. Economic compensation, among other incentives, could encourage nations to host regional sites for fuel storage and waste disposal. The storage concept differs from previous proposals because it is not tied exclusively to new fuel supply; it can be utilized for storage of both legacy and future inventories.

Developing a model partnership between a limited number of countries in the South and East Asia regions – in which all participants have equal rights and protection regardless of the size and style of their governments – could serve as a model for other regional agreements and ensure that industry best practices are implemented.

“Our goal is to advance discussions on integrated multinational fuel cycle schemes that allow the spread of peaceful nuclear energy while reducing security and waste-management concerns across the globe,” the authors write.

Members of the Academy’s Global Nuclear Future Initiative, including the authors of the new report – Stephen M. Goldberg, Robert Rosner, and James Malone – are working with policy makers in the United States, the Middle East, and South and East Asia to advance policies and procedures so that nuclear power does not aggravate, and in fact reduces, concerns over international safety, security, and nonproliferation. The American Academy of Arts and Sciences offers a neutral forum for discussing those issues; it is not identified with a particular stance on nuclear questions and has a 50-year-old tradition of work on arms control matters.

Founded in 1780, the Academy is a nonpartisan policy research center and international learned society dedicated to intellectual leadership across the nation and around the world. Current projects include initiatives for science, engineering, and technology; international security; the governance of American institutions; the state of humanities and culture; and challenges to American higher education.

Publications from the Global Nuclear Future Initiative

The Back-End of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle: An Innovative Storage Concept, Robert Rosner, Stephen M. Goldberg, and James P. Malone (American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2012)

Game Changers for Nuclear Energy, Kate Marvel and Michael May (American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2011)

Nuclear Reactors: Generation to Generation, Stephen M. Goldberg and Robert Rosner (American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2011)

Shared Responsibilities for Nuclear Disarmament: A Global Debate, Scott D. Sagan, James M. Acton, Jayantha Dhanapala, Mustafa Kibaroglu, Harald Müller, Yukio Satoh, Mohamed I. Shaker, and Achilles Zaluar (American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2010)

Multinational Approaches to the Nuclear Fuel Cycle, Charles McCombie and Thomas Isaacs, Noramly Bin Muslim, Tariq Rauf, Atsuyuki Suzuki, Frank von Hippel, and Ellen Tauscher (American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2010)

On the Global Nuclear Future, vols. 1–2, Dædalus, journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (MIT Press, 2009–2010)

All of these publications are available on the Academy’s website.




Global Nuclear Future

Steven E. Miller, Robert Rosner, and Scott D. Sagan