LONDON, July 3 Britain on Thursday said it had
reached a deal to take ownership of almost a tonne of
foreign-owned plutonium now stored on British soil, as the
government eyes turning spent nuclear waste into fuel for its
next generation of nuclear plants.
The government is seeking control of foreign-owned plutonium
amongst a 123-tonne stockpile kept in northern England - the
largest such civilian stockpile in the world - as it looks at
ways to recycle the nuclear byproduct into fuel that could power
reactors over the coming decades.
Plutonium also serves as one of the two major ingredients in
nuclear bombs, along with highly enriched uranium.
In a written statement to parliament, Energy Minister
Michael Fallon said Britain would take ownership of 800
kilograms of material from a Swedish utility firm and 140 kg
from a German research organisation.
Both stocks are already kept in Britain and no more
plutonium would be brought into the country.
Fallon said the deal was beneficial because it would allow
the government to exert more national control over the future of
plutonium stockpiles on British soil.
Britain took charge of nearly three tonnes of German, Dutch
and French plutonium in a deal last year.
The terms of the latest deal and the parties involved were
subject to confidentiality agreements and not disclosed, the
energy ministry said.
Almost all the 123 tonnes of plutonium in Britain is stored
in northern England at the Sellafield reprocessing plant. In
December last year, 23.4 tonnes of that stockpile was foreign
owned, data from the Office for Nuclear Regulation showed.
In 2011 the government stated that it wanted to convert
plutonium - a radioactive byproduct that is found in used or
spent nuclear fuel when it is removed from a reactor - into
so-called "MOX" fuel. That fuel could then be used by nuclear
reactors due to come online in the 2020s.
However, two other reprocessing options are now also under
consideration and a final recommendation from the Nuclear
Decommissioning Authority (NDA) is one or two years away, an NDA
(Reporting by William James; Editing by Mark Heinrich)