Belgium - Plutonium Investigation n°9

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Figures of the month

Annual figures for holdings of civil unirradiated plutonium

As of 31. Dec. 1996 Rounded to 100 kg plutonium

1. Unirradiated separated plutonium in product stores at reprocessing plants


2. Unirradiated separated plutonium in the course of manufacture or fabrication and plutonium contained in unirradiated semi-fabricated or unfinished products at fuel or other fabricating plants or elsewhere.

2,600 kg

3. Plutonium contained in unirradiated MOX fuel or other fabricated products at reactor sites or elsewhere.

100 kg

4. Unirradiated separated plutonium held elsewhere


(this line does not exist in the official document)

2,700 Kg

(i) Plutonium included in lines 1-4 above belonging to foreign bodies: 0
(ii) Plutonium in any of the forms in lines 1-4 above held in locations in other countries and therefore not included above: 0
(iii) Plutonium included in lines 1-4 above which is in international shipment prior to its arrival in the recipient State: 0


Estimated amounts of plutonium contained in spent civil reactor fuel

As of 31. Dec. 1996 Rounded to 1,000 kg plutonium

1. Plutonium contained in spent fuel at civil reactor sites

12 tonnes

2. Plutonium contained in spent fuel at reprocessing plants


3. Plutonium contained in spent fuel held elsewhere


TOTAL (this line does not exist in the official document)

12 tonnes

(Source: Permanent Mission of Belgium to IAEA, 12 December 1997)

This table should contain more explicit data. It can be noted, for instance, that while the International Guidelines for the Management of Plutonium - which have been adopted by Belgium - explicitly call for the publication of figures on the plutonium inventory covering two years (as of 31 Dec. of one year, and in parentheses the previous years' figures), Belgium has only published values for one single year.

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Word of the month

Former US Government Official Recommends Plutonium/Spent Fuel Swap

Prof. Frank von Hippel, physicist at Princeton University, and former assistant director for national security in the White House Office of Science, recommends an original approach for the management of the stockpile of British plutonium. As stated in Plutonium Investigation No3, while there is no currently agreed planned use for separated plutonium in the United-Kingdom, the industry is still producing separated plutonium and worsening the problems concerning the management of its stockpile of this nuclear material. "The enormous accumulation of separated civilian plutonium represents a global security threat that can no longer be ignored. The surest anti-proliferation measure is to stop reprocessing spent fuel and to reduce the quantity of separated plutonium in store". Von Hippel proposes that the British exchange separated plutonium together with radioactive waste against spent fuel under reprocessing contract from other countries - that is swapping the nuclear components before and after reprocessing. This would result in the reduction of the total quantity of reprocessed spent fuel and thus of separated plutonium. A good idea. But there is a strange error and a missing link in this article signed by one of the major experts on plutonium on the planet. The error first: "France does not have a large domestic stockpile of plutonium with which it could carry out similar trades". While Britain's civil plutonium stockpile is - yet - larger than that of France, the French utility EDF stockpiles currently more than 40 metric tons of plutonium (as compared to some 60 tons in the UK). Not so little either! Then the missing link: Any such trade would not solve the management problem of the other country recuperating the separated plutonium of any stockpile. MOX or waste, Mr. Hippel? PS: By the way, the French plutonium stockpile increased by more than a factor of 20 since the country started using MOX in 1987 as a means... of avoiding a plutonium surplus.

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