May 2000

UK Secretary of State for Trade and Industry clarifies civil-military mix of plutonium of various origins and destinations

Official Report, Hansard, 24 May 2000, column 509
Trade and Industry, Plutonium Exports

[Posted 26/05/2000]

Mr. Llew Smith:
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what were the (a) origin of the reactor, (b) isotopic composition, (c) point of departure, (d) mode of transport and (e) final end-use of the United Kingdom plutonium exported to the United States of America between 1970 and 1988 in (i) the form of fuel elements and (ii) other forms. [119256]

Mrs. Liddell:
Whenever the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority or BNFL export United Kingdom plutonium under civil arrangements they keep certain records. These records include the total amount of plutonium exported and the United Kingdom owner of the plutonium. They do not include details of the particular reactor in which the plutonium was produced. This reflects the fact that spent fuel from different UK civil reactors and belonging to different owners may be reprocessed at the same time and that the plutonium arising from reprocessing ceases to have a separate reactor-specific identity. Plutonium is attributed to an owner based on an estimate of the fissile content of the irradiated fuel originally supplied, usually on an annual basis. The specific plutonium atoms allocated to an owner are not necessarily the same atoms that the owner originally supplied.

All exports of United Kingdom plutonium to the United States under civil arrangements have been subject to relevant bilateral and international arrangements to ensure that the material exported is used exclusively for peaceful, non-explosive purposes. The precise end use to which such exported plutonium has been put is however, a matter for the United States.

Information relating to the isotopic composition, point of departure and the mode of transport used for each export is not readily available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Export of United Kingdom plutonium to the United States under non-civil arrangements are a matter for the Ministry of Defence.

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