France - Plutonium Investigationn°19
 

Plut'Info

Figures of the month: A still rising trend
News: Electricity companies refuse to use Russian plutonium
Words of the month
Worth reading: "Economic forecast for nuclear power", by Jean-Michel Charpin, Benjamin Dessus, René Pellat. Report for France's Prime Minister. September 2000, Paris. 252 pages

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Figures of the month

A still rising trend

   A survey of the countries with large stocks of plutonium is easily done. Regarding the stocks of "civilian" plutonium, France takes the lead with around 78 tons (all figures in metric tons of heavy metal) at the end of 1999 (76 t in 1998) of which 37 t from foreign sources, ahead of the United Kingdom (72.5 t at the end of 1999). Bravo! They come neatly before the two record "military" plutonium holders: their stocks, as in their last declarations, end of 1997 for the United States, and end of 1999 for Russia (obviously more prompt in supplying data to the Vienna Agency) were of respectively around 45 t and 32 t of "civilian" plutonium. Only Japan has pulled off the exploit of storing almost 85% of its plutonium abroad. That is worth the jury’s special award!


Annual data on "civilian" plutonium per country
(in tons rounded for 100 kg)

Country Germany Belgium China United States Russian Federation France Japan United Kingdom Switzerland

Stock as of

31.12.97 31.12.99 31.12.98 31.12.97 31.12.99 31.12.98 31.12.99 31.12.99 31.12.99

1. Unirradiated separated plutonium in product stores at reprocessing plants

0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 30.9 52.0 0.5 69.5 0.0

2. Unirradiated separated plutonium in the course of manufacture or fabrication and plutonium in unirradiated products at fuel or other fabricating plants or elsewhere

0.3 2.5 0.0 < 0.05 0.0 11.8 3.1 0.8 0.0

3. Plutonium in unirradiated fuel or other fabricated products at reactor sites or elsewhere

3.9 1.4 0.0 4.6 0.2 6.8 1.2 2.2 0.6

4. Unirradiated separated plutonium held elsewhere *

1.8 0.0 0.0 40.4 0.9 5.3 0.4 0.0 < 0.05
TOTAL DISPOSED IN EACH COUNTRY
(This line does not exist in the official document)
6.0
3.9
0.0
45.0
32.0
75.9
5.2
72.5
0.6
 
Germany
Belgium
China
United States
Russian Federation
France
Japan
United Kingdom
Switzerland
(i) Plutonium included in lines 1-4 above belonging to foreign bodies.  
0.0
0.0
 
35.6
0.0
11.8
< 0.05
(ii) Plutonium in any of the forms in lines 1-4 above held in locations in other countries and therefore not included above.  
0.9
0.0
0.0
 
< 0.05
27.6
0.9
0.0
 
Germany
Belgium
China
United States
Russian Federation
France
Japan
United Kingdom
Switzerland

TOTAL BELONGING TO EACH COUNTRY
(This line does not exist in the official document)

? 4.8 0.0 45.0 ? 40.3 32.8 61.6 0.6

* : of which plutonium separated for research purposes
** : " Not to be communicated due to secrecy reasons "

Sources : Declarations of the Permanent Missions to the IAEA, published under the reference n°549 of the IAEA "Information Circular".

Estimated quantities of plutonium contained in spent fuel from reactors for civilian use
(in tons)

Country Germany Belgium China United States Russian Federation France Japan United Kingdom Switzerland

Stock as of

  31.12.99   31.12.97 31.12.99 31.12.98 31.12.99 31.12.99 31.12.99

1. Plutonium contained in spent fuel at civil reactor sites

  17   287 47 74.9 72 7 7

2. Plutonium contained in spent fuel at reprocessing plants

  0   0 4 83.4 1 39 0

3. Plutonium contained in spent fuel held elsewhere

  0   15 20 0.5 < 0.5 < 0.5 0

TOTAL
(This line does not exist in the official document)

  17   302 71 158.8 73 46 7

Sources : Declarations of the Permanent Missions to the IAEA, published under the reference n°549 of the IAEA "Information Circular".

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News

Electricity companies refuse to use Russian plutonium

   Electricity companies do not want Russian military plutonium, made available under the Russia-US agreement. This was the view that emerged from the Plutonium 2000 Conference, held in Brussels on 9-11 October 2000. In reply to an informal question on importation of Russian MOX for French reactors, EDF replied that "we can't take foreign plutonium, we have problems recycling our own." There were similar reactions from other European and Japanese nuclear utilities: "If it was less expensive." (Bayernwerk, Germany). "If it made economic sense..." (NOK, Switzerland) and, more explicitly, "We have no such project" (TEPCO, Japan). Where the manufacturers/builders are concerned, old projects are being brought out of mothballs: from the high-temperature reactor (HTR) from Framatome to feedback on Russian fast reactors (FBR), via fuels with inert matrix, there is general agreement that, in the future, plutonium will be burned more efficiently. With efficiency in mind, the German and Swiss electricity companies are only envisaging better use of MOX by increasing burn-up. On the one hand, the electricity companies are increasingly pre-occupied by questions of competitiveness, as indicated by Bernard Estève, former Director of EDF's Fuels Department, who declared, in April 2000, that there was no market for plutonium and that, even if there was, the plutonium value would be negative. On the other hand, there is the reprocessing industry which, seeing the end of its contracts coming on apace, is attempting to mesmerize the electricity companies, as witnessed by COGEMA's Communications Director endlessly repeating that, "plutonium is a sheep in wolf's clothing".

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Words of the month

   "As far as I am concerned, reprocessing is certainly doomed in the mid-term, and maybe even in the short-term"

   Dominique Voynet, France's Minister for Spatial Planning and Environment, Les Echos, 31 October 2000.


   "One may regret the fact the report does not examine the hypothesis of a stop to reprocessing in 2002; sooner or later, it will be necessary to talk about that. (...) Unquestioned recourse to nuclear energy is now part of past illusions."

   Roland Lagarde, Technical adviser to the French Minister of Spatial Planning and Environment, Vert-Contact, n°579, 14-20 October 2000.


   "In terms of cumulative cost, the "stopping of reprocessing in 2010" scenarios compared to the "28 units using MOX" scenarios represent a saving of between 28 and 39 billion French Francs depending on the hypothesis adopted for the operating life of the installed nuclear power plants."

   J.M. Charpin, B. Dessus, R. Pellat, Étude économique prospective de la filière électrique nucléaire, Report for the French Prime Minister, September 2000.


   "The results of this report are in line with current thinking at EDF— the reprocessing/recycling option is extremely costly"

   Internal EDF memo on the Charpin/Dessus/Pellat Report, August 2000.


   "Recycling of plutonium in light-water reactors is an economic aberration. Furthermore, temporary then final storage of irradiated fuels from light-water reactors is not only safer, it is less expensive than reprocessing.

   Jean-Louis.Fensch, CEA Engineer, Report to the French Nuclear Safety Council, October 1982.

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