United Kingdom- Plutonium Investigation n°3
 

News !

Words of the month
What a waste
Superphenix shut down for good

Figure of the month

The inventory of separated plutonium in the UK, which has doubled over the last ten years, is the largest in the world. Most of the separated plutonium is of British origin, which highlights the inconsistency of the UK plutonium management scheme. As of 31 March 1997, the amount of non-British separated plutonium in the country was less than 5.5 tonnes, that is to say less than 10% of the total separated plutonium of almost 60 tonnes. BNFL is to continue producing very significant quantities of separated plutonium of UK origin, while there is no use for such material in the UK.

 As of 31 March
 of year
1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997
Plutonium at all UK nuclear sites but UKAEA sites
 

 

                 
In store as plutonium oxyde 25 26,5 29,5 32 34 36,5 38,5 41,5 44 48,5 53,5

Unextrated plutonium
in irradiated fuel

17,5

23,5

26

28

31

34

37

39,5

43

49,5

45

In process of extraction / fuel fabrication or in other intermediate forms (eg.nitrate)

2,5

2

1,5

1,5

1,5

1,5

1,5

1

1,5

2,5

2
 
UKAEA sites
(in Mt no detail)
4,5 4,5 4,5 4 4 4,5 4,5 4,5 4,5 4 4

16 tonnes Of Plutonium Produced At La Hague During 1997

The French reprocessing plants at La Hague reprocessed a total of 1,620 tonnes during 1997. The UP2 plant reprocessed 850 tonnes of French spent fuel and the UP3 plant reprocessed 820 tonnes of foreign spent fuel and a total of approx. 16 additional tonnes of plutonium were separated. Most of it will, of course, be added to the plutonium stockpile. A brilliant demonstration of the official French policy of not putting plutonium on the shelves.

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Words of the month

Early Day Motion On The British Plutonium Policy

As of 23 February 1998, 134 MPs had signed the following Early Day Motion, tabled at the House of Commons by Labour MP David Chaytor on 27 October 1997: "That this House is concerned with the ever-increasing stockpiles of plutonium in Britain and the rest of the world; regrets the lack of any clear policy on what to do with this plutonium and in particular the decision by Britain to allow the recycling of some of this plutonium for use in mixed oxide fuel; regrets the lack of a detailed plutonium disposition policy for Britain and the lack of discussion or debate in the House on the potential proliferation risks of Britain's plutonium stockpile and the manufacturing and exporting of mixed oxide fuel by British Nuclear Fuel plc; and calls on Her Majesty's Government to instigate a thorough re-examination of how to deal with Britain's plutonium stockpile that takes account of the many concerns of the public and honourable Members before arriving at a plutonium disposal policy that properly addresses all the potential health, environment and proliferation risks posed by the stockpile."

Plutonium Stockpile A Proliferation Risk ?

Mr Derek Fatchett, Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, stated to MPs in a House of Commons written reply on 2 December 1997 that "the proliferation risks posed by the use of Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX) by European Union countries and its transport from EU suppliers to Japan are assessed as being extremely low". He added: "Indeed, the use of MOX fuel reduces proliferation risks by gradually reducing plutonium stockpiles"... which the same government currently allows to increase at unprecedented speed. Ah, politics and logic.

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What a waste

Belgian Government Says Radwaste Will Stay In France

Large quantities of low level radioactive waste from the reprocessing of Belgian spent fuel shall stay in France. In a response to parliamentary questions, dated 18 february 1998, the Belgian Government states: "The execution of the reprocessing contracts no longer forsees the return to Belgium of Category A waste". How the French population will appreciate the Belgian glowing gift - illegal under the 1991 Radioactive Waste Act - remains to be seen.

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Superphénix Shut Down For Good, Phénix Restart Legally Doubtful

On 2 Fébruary 1998, the French Government issued a clear statement confirming its decision to keep the world's only industrial scale (1,200 MWe) fast breeder reactor shut down and prepare for its decommissioning: "Superphénix will not restart, not even for a limited time span". The same statement indicated that the almost 25 year old Phénix (250MWe) fast breeder reactor at Marcoule could be restarted "until 2004 under certain conditions which will have to be respected by the operator". The reactor was shut down for upgrading work on 7th April 1995 and has been inoperative ever since. The French legislation stipulates that a reactor which is shut down ("à l'arrt") for more than two subsequent years has to undergo a new licensing procedure. The operators want to restart the reactor by the end of March. Opponents are only waiting for the authorisation to be given to go to court - with good chances.

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