Letter: Fuel for debate

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Sir: It was good to see that British Nuclear Fuels Limited has responded to some of the issues surrounding the fabrication of plutonium into mixed oxide fuel which have been raised by campaigning organisations in The Independent over the last two years.

Successive governments and the nuclear industry have claimed that reactor- grade plutonium cannot be used in a nuclear weapon; this is untrue. BNFL claims that the separation of the plutonium from the MoX fuel would require a complex plant, equipment and a large group of people with a high degree of expertise; this is also untrue. MoX fuel fabrication may reduce the initial plutonium stockpile, albeit very gradually, but its burning in conventional reactors creates further plutonium to add to the stockpile in spent fuel.

BNFL has been extremely coy about what will happen to the highly radioactive spent MoX fuel. Arthur Roberts implies that the spent MoX fuel will be returned to Sellafield and reprocessed in existing plant. Is the Government aware of this development as it prepares to sanction the commissioning of the Sellafield MoX Plant? Shouldn't the British public have been consulted before the MoX plant was built?

The Royal Society recognised that the increasing stockpile of plutonium at Sellafield poses a real security risk. Why then should BNFL be permitted to withdraw plutonium from safe storage at Sellafield, fabricate it into a retrievable form and transport it around the world from Carlisle Airport and Barrow-in-Furness docks?

Finally, Mr Roberts is quite wrong to claim that "any decision to use MoX is for our customers". The Environment Agency considered that major developments at Sellafield are matters of national and international significance and has asked that government departments consider the wider issues associated with plutonium use.

Dave Knight

Chair CND

London N7