Letter: Reactions to current nuclear issues

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The Independent Online
IN your article 'Plutonium could double nuclear disposal costs' (June 6) you state that burning mixed oxide fuel (Mox) in conventional nuclear reactors 'will not significantly decrease the stockpile (of plutonium) because the process ultimately produces more of it'.

This is not so. The average Mox fuel assembly contains some 67kg of plutonium per tonne of fuel entering the reactor, yet after four years of generating electricity the quality of plutonium will reduce to some 49kg per tonne. Burning Mox fuel actually depletes the plutonium stockpile and for a typical PWR loaded with one-third Mox fuel (with the remainder conventional fuel) there will be around 500kg less plutonium in the Mox fuel after its four-year life in the reactor.

BNFL estimates that loading one-third of a reactor core with Mox fuel in a typical PWR will save up to pounds 50m over the lifetime of the reactor. An independent OECD study also shows that Mox fuel will be 30 per cent cheaper than uranium fuel. Mox provides a way of managing the world's plutonium stockpile while generating electricity as a useful by- product.

Colin Duncan

British Nuclear Fuels plc,

Warrington, Cheshire

Tom Wilkie replies: My original statement remains true: recycling Mox produces more plutonium than it consumes. BNFL concentrates solely on consumption of plutonium in Mox fuel and neglects the fact that the remaining two-thirds of the nuclear fuel generates plutonium faster than the Mox fuel consumes it.