Letter: Further growth at Sellafield

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Sir: Marcus Birsel is incorrect to state that the plutonium recovered from British Nuclear Fuels' recycling operations is simply 'added to an alarmingly large stockpile' (letter, 15 October).

Plutonium recovered can be mixed with uranium to make highly efficient mixed oxide (MOX) fuel. Some 400 tonnes of MOX fuel have been safely loaded into reactors around the world since 1963. MOX assemblies can be used in existing pressurised water reactors (PWRs) without modification to the reactor, to a level where it contributes about a third of the total fuel capacity, making use of some two tonnes of plutonium at any one time.

A new pilot plant at Sellafield is in the process of delivering a multi-million-pound order placed by a Swiss utility and such is BNFL's confidence in the further expansion of the MOX market that we are constructing a full- scale plant at Sellafield capable of producing more than 100 tonnes a year.

Mr Birsel may also like to know that about 15,000 tonnes of recycled uranium have so far been used to manufacture new fuel for the UK's nuclear power stations as a result of reprocessing operations at Sellafield - generating electricity equivalent to more than 80 per cent of the country's total demand for one year.

Yours faithfully, GREGG BUTLER Deputy Chief Executive British Nuclear Fuels Risley, Cheshire