Germany - Plutonium Investigation n°4/5

German Plutonium Stockpile Nowhere to Go ?

As of 1 January 1998, Germany had processed 3,376 t of spent fuel at La Hague (3,552 t as of 1 March 1998) and 56 t at Sellafield. At an average plutonium content of almost 1% the total amount of German plutonium produced in France and the UK is roughly 36 t. The total amount of plutonium produced at the German Karlsruhe plant WAK is 1,164 kg*. The total amount (leaving minor other sources aside) is therefore about 37 tons. And there is a great deal more to come: current contracts with Sellafield and La Hague cover an additional 2,116 t plus 2,690 tonnes contracted for the post-2000 period). The reprocessing of all of this fuel would lead to an additional 48 t of plutonium.

On the consumption side, the total amount of MOX fuel introduced into German reactors as of 1 January 1998 is 238.3 t. At an average of about 5% plutonium content, about 12 t of plutonium have thus been reintroduced into LWRs. An additional ca. 1 t of plutonium has been contributed by Germany to the first Superphenix core.

In other words, as of January 1998, Germany owned a stockpile of about 24 tonnes of unirradiated plutonium in various forms. If German plutonium separation was immediately halted, it would take 13 years at the 1997 MOX fuel loading rate of 37.5 t spread over five reactors to absorb the stock. The full implementation of the existing contracts would stretch that period by another 25 years to 38 years. And it would still take almost 20 years if the number of reactors loaded with MOX was doubled to ten. A brilliant strategy to impose continued operation of the reactors onto policy makers. Time to talk seriously about plutonium immobilisation as final waste.

Most of the current stockpile is at La Hague and about two tonnes are still stored in Germany in a bunker at Hanau. The State of Hesse, which has not granted the operating licences for the two MOX plants, has negotiated with the Federal government and Siemens that the Hanau site has to be cleared of plutonium and dismantled. However, no decision has yet been taken on the final destination of the material, nor on the form under which it will be stored.

While some of the fresh Kalkar breeder fuel was transported to Dounreay in Scotland, about 140 kg of plutonium have been transported without much public attention during the summer of 1997... back to La Hague.

* W.Weinländer, et al,.,
"Twenty years of WAK reprocessing pilot plant operation"
in RECORD' 91, Proceedings Vol.1, 14-18
April 91, Tokio.
Map of Plutonium in Germany (33 Ko, Pdf)         

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