NFLA publishes report on UK plutonium policy amid new concerns over plutonium remobilisation in the Irish Sea

Posted: 14th June 2021

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 ‘’. (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

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