In the Manhattan project, the small proportion (0.7%) of U235 isotope was separated with great difficulty from natural uranium, to produce the first thermonuclear weapon, which was detonated over Hiroshima. At the same time, the experimental reactor was used to produce the plutonium which was used in the second thermonuclear weapon, which was detonated over Nagasaki.
In the early days of the nuclear energy industry, "breeder" reactors were constructed to produce plutonium from U238, primarily for weapons production, but secondarily as a source of fuel for commercial power reactors. The breeder reactors also produced substantial quantities of other long-half-life isotopes, which required secure, long term storage. With the end of the "Cold War", the U.S. Government ceased reliance upon the nuclear reactor industry, because they had a substantial stockpile of weapons-grade plutonium, and a need to dispose of de-commissioned and outdated nuclear weapons.
Long-term storage facilities were constructed in geologically-stable locations. Australia's C.S.I.R.O. developed a mineral glass-like material, named "Synrock", for the encapsulation of radioactive wastes.
Over a 10 year period, ending in 1996, the U.S. Argonne Laboratories designed, developed and successfully tested their Integral Fast Reactor (I.F.R.). This reactor re-processed spent nuclear fuel elements by remote control, within the reactor shield. The recovered material was combined with other nuclear fuel and used to manufacture new fuel assemblies by remote control. These re-cycled fuel assemblies were then used to re-charge the nuclear reactor. The result of this on-site recycling was that, after storage for 5 years, the final waste was of low activity and could be safely returned to the orginal uranium mine site.
If this process is adopted by an Australian nuclear industry, there will be no need to develop a waste storage faciity, and there will be, effectively, no adverse impact upon the environment.
Professor Brook has estimated that the existing stockpile of plutonium and other nuclear waste, if used in I.F.R. plants, will meet the world's energy needs for 1,000 years. A very effective method of turning swords into plough-shares!