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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