Plutonium stockpile warning by generator

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The Independent Online

British Energy, the nuclear electricity generator, yesterday called for an immediate moratorium on the reprocessing of spent fuel at Sellafield, warning that otherwise the UK would be left with an unwanted stockpile of 25 tonnes of weapons-grade plutonium.

A ban on further reprocessing of BE's spent waste would call into question not just the future of Sellafield's £2.5bn Thorp reprocessing plant but also its controversial mixed oxide (Mox) fuel facility that was just given the go-ahead by the Government.

In a submission to a Commons select committee inquiry into Britain's future radioactive waste policy, BE says that the reprocessing of its AGR fuel at Sellafield is both uneconomic and is adding to the UK's plutonium stockpile.

British Nuclear Fuels, the state-owned company which runs Sellafield, has so far reprocessed about 2.5 tonnes of plutonium from spent BE fuel. BE estimates that by 2023 the stockpile will have grown by a further 22.5 tonnes under the reprocessing contracts it has with BNFL.

BE is urging the Government and BNFL to store the spent fuel instead and then dispose of it – a move which would cut its annual bill from £300m to £50m. BE believes storage would be safer, cheaper and less harmful to the environment.