Push for Prism

04 April 2012

GE-Hitachi has continued to promote the idea of using a Prism reactor to dispose of the UK's plutonium stocks with another suppliers' day and an agreement with the National Nuclear Laboratory for expert input.

The UK has about 87 tonnes of plutonium extracted from nuclear fuel used in reactors that were built as part of a national program that ran from the 1950s to the 1990s. The fuel continues to build up and stocks will hit 140 tonnes by 2018. This stored at Sellafield in the north west of England.

Various options are available for handling the plutonium, all of which are loss-making and most of which involve disposing of it. However, GE-Hitachi say the option of using two Prism reactors is attractive because they would generate 600 MWe of electricity while conditioning and disposing of the stocks. Income from this would go to the state, and effectively be returned to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to spend on cleaning up the legacy facilities.

The UK government's favoured option is to set up another fuel production line to sell the plutonium mixed with uranium as mixed oxide (MOX) nuclear fuel. In the meantime, it said it is open to other options. GE-Hitachi wants its Prism design to be one those options and today it has announced a memorandum of understanding with the UK's National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) to provide "expert technical input" to a GE-Hitachi study on the Prism option.

At the same time, GE-Hitachi held a meeting with engineering firms Arup, Costain and Poyry and local supply firms in the area near to Sellafield. The company emphasised that it would like to employ local workers and firms "to the greatest extent possible", estimating that 900 permanent jobs could be created by the Prism project.
The Prism design is also one of those proposed for demonstration at the US Department of Energy's (DoE's) Savannah River site, where officials would like to take advantage of the DoE's capabilities and status to rapidly construct small reactors with the aim of helping them to market.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News