The FT report “UK issues coded warning to Brussels over nuclear waste” is based on a curious confusion and a worrying level of ignorance by anonymous so-called nuclear experts your reporters say have advised the UK Government. It a is both an empty and, frankly, a totally counter-productive threat to return fissile materials ( and radioactive wastes) to countries of origin in the EU, as part of a sui-disant negotiating posture on Brexit by the UK, On 19 January this year, the UK Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced it had agreed to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) taking ownership of 600 kg of material previously owned by a Spanish utility, and of 5 kg of material previously owned by a German organisation. BEIS asserted that “These transactions, which have been agreed by the Euratom Supply Agency, will not result in any new plutonium being brought into the UK, and will not therefore increase the overall amount of plutonium in the UK.” Adding it had “agreed to these transactions on the grounds that they offer a cost-effective and beneficial arrangement, which allows the UK to gain national control over more of the civil plutonium located in the UK, and facilitates conclusion of outstanding contracts with the Spanish and German” Preceding this, three years ago, on 3 July 2014 the UK announced that it had struck an agreement with German and Swedish governments to take title to 140 kgs of plutonium in the former case, and 800 kgs in the latter, arising from the reprocessing at Sellafield and management at Dounreay respectively of spent nuclear fuel from the two nations. Thus the overseas ownership of plutonium in the UK has gradually been transferred to the UK. Thus there is no prospect of any ship sailing towards Antwerp (or any other EU port) as the nuclear expert cited fancifully imagined. It is possible that some of reprocessing waste arising from the chemical separation of imported foreign spent nuclear fuel at Sellafield could be returned-to-sender in a fit of pique by DexEU. However, BEIS has already- through its predecessor department- indicated it wanted to adopt a policy of substitution” based on “radiotoxic equivalence” to the reprocessing nuclear waste stockpile to minimize the volumes of waste shipped back to continental Europe. A BEIS official told me at a nuclear policy forum meeting of interested non-governmental parties on 18 July that the department has a team of dedicated staff looking in detail at all the ramifications of withdrawal from Euratom for UK nuclear policy. Perhaps DexEU officials should consult these in-house experts over Euratom before issuing empty threats.
David Lowry’s Blog 20th July 2017 read more »