The much delayed update from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) on its plans for dealing with Sellafield’s burgeoning plutonium stockpile was quietly published at the end March 2019 under the title ‘Progress on plutonium consolidation, storage and disposition’. The lack of fanfare for its publication may be attributable to the absence of any major breakthrough in progress since the NDA’s 2014 Position Paper and the subsequent warning given to a Sellafield Stakeholder Group in 2016. It was in 2008 that the NDA launched its initial Comment Paper on the options for managing the plutonium stockpile accumulating from the reprocessing of UK and Overseas spent fuel at Sellafield – a stockpile estimated by NDA to reach 140+ tonnes (in the form of plutonium oxide powder) when all reprocessing operations at Sellafield have ceased (after 2020). In 2011 the Government launched a public consultation on the options and concluded in December of that year that the re-use of plutonium was its preferred option – a preference it retains today. The options subsequently assessed by the NDA include plutonium’s re-use as Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel in reactors, its use as CANMOX fuel in Canada’s Candu reactors its use as feed stock for fast reactors, and its immobilisation as nuclear waste. In the latest update, the NDA’s ‘forward look’ of the options is summarised here. The NDA’s update concludes that a programme to implement a long-term solution for the disposition of separated plutonium will be complex, incorporating significant technical challenges and uncertainties, and will take many decades to complete. For these reasons, the UK government has been clear that a decision cannot be taken quickly and, when taken, must be underpinned by the right evidence. A ‘prudent estimate’ of £10Bn (discounted) has been identified by the NDA as the potential costs of either the reuse or the immobilisation options.
CORE 6th May 2019 read more »