A March 22 article "Recycling uranium and plutonium: where's it heading?" on the Nuclear Engineering International website explores the status of uranium recycling and its future.
Programs for the recycling of plutonium were developed in the 1970s when it appeared that uranium would be in scarce supply and would become increasingly expensive. It was originally proposed that plutonium would be recycled through fast breeder reactors, that is, reactors with a uranium ‘blanket’ but which would produce slightly more plutonium than they consume. Thus it was envisaged that the world’s ‘low cost’ uranium resources, then estimated to be sufficient for only 50 years’ consumption, could be extended for hundreds of years. . . .
As things transpired, the pressure on uranium resources was very much less than expected and prices remained low in the period up to 2003. . . .
Revived interest in nuclear power in the 21st Century, as a clean air solution which contributes to world sustainable development, is encouraging the development of new materials and technologies. In addition, the substantial rise in uranium prices since 2003 and the difficulties with commissioning waste repositories have prompted the beginning of a revaluation of recycling. . . .