United Kingdom- Plutonium Investigation n°3

The Plutonium Dilemna

A significant proportion of the Magnox spent fuel has been reprocessed. Magnox fuel deteriorates during storage through corrosion in the storage pools. Wet storage prior to reprocessing is therefore considered to be limited to about 18 months. Dry storage of Magnox fuel was demonstrated, however, already years ago at the Wylfa power station, in north Wales, which opened in 1971. Spent fuel from AGRs does not deteriorate as quickly as Magnox spent fuel and wet storage periods can be much longer. Nevertheless, BNFL plans to reprocess all of the AGR spent fuel.

A large amount of separated British-origin plutonium has been stockpiled following reprocessing even though there exists no prospect of use for it. Small quantities of plutonium have been used in the demonstration fast-breeder reactor or other experimental programmes, but most of it is stored at Sellafield (See plutonium stockpile). The UK is the only country which has established a plutonium separation programme without initiating commercial plutonium use in parallel. The nuclear industries in other countries which have reprocessed spent fuel initiated plutonium use in MOX fuel, when they realised that the fast-breeder programmes would not be developed as previously forecast.

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