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Will the U.S. recycle nuclear materials for fuel?

New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici agrees that recycling cuts down on fuel needing to be mined, as well as the amount of nuclear waste that needs to get buried.

The U.S. does not recycle nuclear waste from power plants because it could be used for weapons, but that might change.

Pete Domenici, the Republican Senator from New Mexico, said the country should start to examine the benefits of recycling fuel, according to the Las Vegas Sun.

France and most other nuclear energy-producing countries recycle fuel. Doing so cuts down the amount of fuel that needs to be mined, as well as the amount of nuclear waste that needs to get buried. Recycling, however, leads to byproducts that can be used to build bombs.

Domenici also said he wants to introduce legislation that would create more nuclear depositories, possibly in New Mexico. The Department of Energy has invested billions of dollars over several years in trying to build a repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. The project, however, faces strong opposition.

No nuclear plants have been built in the U.S. in decades, but global warming, as well as higher prices for coal and natural gas, have revived the industry. An estimated 31 applications for building new nuclear plants in the United States are expected to be filed in the next few years. The applications, though, will likely draw strong opposition.

A few start-ups are also tinkering with nuclear fusion, which produces much less waste than nuclear fission, the basis of nuclear plants today. (Nuclear plants basically create heat, which is used to create steam to crank a turbine.)