Fact 4: Reprocessing and/or recycling results in enhanced safety for the safe disposal of remaining waste and utilization of usable fissionable materials.
In 1977 President Carter elected to prohibit recycling in the U.S. as an example of a non-proliferation initiative. The policy was driven by the potential for plutonium from spent fuel to be diverted by non-weapon states for military purposes. Nevertheless, this did not stop other nuclear weapon countries from engaging in the reprocessing of spent fuel, such as Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the non-weapon state of Japan. Countries that have nuclear weapons programs have obtained plutonium from their own weapon production from "research" reactors, not from commercial power reactors. The only other manner to obtain nuclear weapons grade material is by enriching uranium to a very high concentration, a difficult and expensive undertaking. As mentioned, Great Britain, France, Japan, Russia and Germany are all recycling a portion of their spent nuclear fuel. No nuclear weapons have been produced through diversion of plutonium from these countries' reprocessing or shipping facilities.
The current primary deterrent to commercial fuel reprocessing in developing countries with nuclear power programs is economics, since it can be done with adequate international safeguards. There is a strong global incentive to maintain the peaceful uses of atomic energy separate from the potential military uses. Presently, signing the International Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and its strong enhancement via the Additional Protocol are deemed adequate to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, and especially so for countries that legitimately want to employ nuclear-electrical generation. Presently, 189 states are party to the NPT. Countries that have obtained nuclear weapons since the NPT (1970) have either never signed the treaty (India, Pakistan) or withdrawn from the treaty (North Korea in 2003). Iran has been found to be in non-compliance with its NPT obligations, as it continues to try to enrich uranium using centrifuges without full safeguards.
In fact, nuclear power plants in the U.S. have played an important role in limiting the material available for weapons. A partnership between the United States and Russia has been formed and the U.S. has used down blended enriched, weapons grade uranium from Russia to fuel the U.S. nuclear reactors. About 500 metric tons of highly enriched uranium is no longer available to be used in nuclear weapons because it is being used to produce electricity. Furthermore, the U.S. - Russia led Global Nuclear Threat Initiative is bringing together many nations to support both nuclear power and non-proliferation initiatives.