UK government increases control of civil plutonium

03 July 2014

The UK is taking control of more of the foreign-owned separated plutonium it is storing, avoiding the cost and security measures associated with transporting the fuel back to other countries.

Minister of State for Energy Michael Fallon said in a written statement to Parliament today that the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has agreed to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) taking ownership of about one tonne - 800 kg and 140 kg, respectively - of material previously owned by a Swedish utility and a German research organisation. The names of the organisations and the value of the agreements were not disclosed.

"We have agreed to these transactions as they offer a cost effective and beneficial arrangement, which removes the need to transport separated plutonium, allows the UK to gain control over more of the civil plutonium in the UK and enables an outstanding contract with a Swedish utility to be concluded," Fallon said.

These transactions will not result in any new plutonium being brought into the UK and will not increase the overall amount of plutonium in the country, Fallon said.

The UK has around 123 tonnes of separated civil plutonium, of which about 23 tonnes is foreign owned, according to the latest government data published last December.

In late 2011, DECC published its response to a consultation on plutonium management, indicating that its preferred option was to reuse plutonium as mixed-oxide, or MOX, fuel, but that it would consider alternative options that offered better value to the UK taxpayer. It also said that overseas owners of plutonium stored in the UK could have that plutonium managed in line with UK plutonium, subject to commercial terms acceptable to the government.

DECC said in April last year that it would take over 750 kg of plutonium belonging to German utilities, 1850 kg previously loaned from France, and 350 kg from Dutch firm GKN. At the same time, 650 kg of plutonium stored at Sellafield was transferred from German to Japanese ownership. A similar deal with Germany in 2012 saw the UK take ownership of four tonnes of plutonium.

All these changes, including the latest deals, have been agreed with the Euratom Supply Agency.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News