The UK & Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) publishes today on its website an expert overview of national plutonium policy and recent concerns over the potential for plutonium remobilisation in the Irish Sea. (1) The report was developed by the NFLA Policy Advisor, Pete Roche, and was first published on the website ‘No2nuclearpower.org.uk’. (2) Recent research on this area was also presented by Pete to the most recent meetings of the NFLA English Forum and NFLA All Ireland Sustainable Energy Forum. (3) The report notes that the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) expects the Magnox Reprocessing Plant at Sellafield to close this year (2021) – one year later than previously planned. This follows on from the closure of the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP) in November 2018. Reprocessing, which NFLA has always argued has been completely unnecessary, is the chemical separation of plutonium and unused uranium from spent nuclear waste fuel. When reprocessing ends there will be around 140 tonnes of separated civil plutonium stored at Sellafield – the world’s largest stockpile. Since 2008, the NDA has been discussing how to deal with this embarrassment, given that it is highly toxic, poses a permanent risk of proliferation, and will cost taxpayers around £73 million a year to store for the next century. (3) 13 years later, after much dithering, the UK Government has failed to make any decisions, but still appears to favour the re-use option, which would probably involve transporting weapons-useable plutonium or Mixed Oxide Fuel (MoX) fuel to reactor sites, such as Hinkley Point C and Sizewell B (and C if it is ever built) with an armed escort. The report looks at this sorry saga and the options for dealing with this stockpile. NFLA believe that the plutonium should be immobilised and stored safely. NDA is continuing to investigate how immobilisation and reuse might be implemented, arguing that using the material as MOX fuel in light water reactors is the most mature option from a technical and licensing perspective. The UK government says it can only make a decision when it can be underpinned with sufficient evidence.
NFLA 10th June 2021 read more »