United Kingdom- Plutonium Investigation n°3

The "Return To Sender" Option

The reprocessing contracts between BNFL and its foreign customers contain a clause which states that BNFL has the "option" to return radioactive waste, generated through the reprocessing of the customer's spent fuel, if the waste is in a form suitable for safe transportation and storage. There is no contractual obligation for BNFL to send back radioactive waste. However, the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee (RWMAC) has made it clear it did not accept the disposal of radioactive waste attributed to foreign customers in the UK*.

BNFL has also stated that if ever it sent back reprocessing waste to foreign customers, it would not send all the waste, but instead make a substitution of waste volumes between high and lower radioactive waste. BNFL is planning to send back a small additional volume of very high radioactive waste instead of all the different categories of radioactive waste which are generated through reprocessing (i.e. the so-called low and intermediate level wastes). The British Government has agreed to this practice in July 1995, but to the condition a geological disposal for radioactive waste is chosen and operated as planned. In February 1998, BNFL's chairman John Guinness stated that such a repository might not be ready before after 2020, this condition would put BNFL "at a competitive disadvantage with the French, who, we understand, have the ability to undertake substitution"** . This is a highly questionable interpretation since the French legislation actually prohibits foreign waste storage in the country.

* See RWMAC,The Import and Export of Radioactive Waste, September 1997 .
** Nuclear Fuel, 23 February 1998.

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