First quarter of 2000

UK Government Publishes Data on "Surplus" Weapons Plutonium

Official Report (HANSARD), 14 March 2000, columns 105-106
Surplus Nuclear Material

[Posted 27/03/2000]

Mr. Llew Smith:
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what quantities of strategic nuclear material have been declared surplus to military requirements in the last 10 years; when, and in what form, the material was transferred to civilian facilities and in which locations; on what date the material was notified to Euratom and IAEA safeguards authorities as non-military; when the first visits were paid by inspection teams from each body respectively to verify the notification; and what costs have been incurred to date in the transfer of status of the nuclear material. [113285]

Dr. Moonie (defence minister):
Details of the defence nuclear materials which are now deemed to be surplus to our requirements are given in paragraph 26 of Supporting Essay 5 of the Strategic Defence Review (Cm 3999), [copies of which are in the Library of the House of Commons].

During July and August 1998, the following material was brought into safeguards: Approximately 4.1 tonnes of plutonium stored at the BNFL Sellafield facility; Approximately 9,000 tonnes of depleted natural and low enriched uranium at the BNFL Capenhurst, Chapelcross, Sellafield and Springfields facilities and UKAEA Harwell.

Steps are being taken to move 0.3 tonnes of weapon grade plutonium (in the form of oxide) stored at AWE Aldermaston to Sellafield when it too will be formally reported to Euratom and brought into safeguards. To date, some 73 kilograms of this material have been transferred; the remainder will be moved as soon as is practicable.

In addition to the material referred to above, there have been a number of occasions over the last 10 years where material has been brought into safeguards--notably in 1996 when the Calder Hall reactors and the fuel associated with them came into safeguards. The Department for Trade and Industry are responsible for safeguards issues. However, they have advised that the detailed information requested on the large numbers of these other transfers into safeguards and also inspections by the international safeguards authorities is not collated centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Activities to verify nuclear material which has been brought into safeguards have been added to Euratom's ongoing schedule of routine safeguards inspections at the facilities concerned. These routine inspections are such that there is essentially continuous Euratom presence at Sellafield, weekly inspections at the Springfields location and less frequent inspection visits to the other facilities concerned.

The costs to the Defence Budget of the transfers to date are 524,000 (including VAT) and include the costs of preparation, transports, acceptance of the material at Sellafield and storage.

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