LONDON, April 23 Britain said it would take
ownership of 2,950 kg of waste plutonium that it has been
storing on behalf of European utilities and may reprocess it
into fuel for a planned new generation of nuclear plants.
The ownership change does not mean that more nuclear fuel
will be brought into Britain, the Department of Energy and
Climate Change (DECC) said.
The government wants to recycle the world's largest civilian
stockpile of used plutonium - stored at the Sellafield nuclear
site in Cumbria - into MOX fuel for a new generation of plants
currently under discussion with France's EDF and
A decision on whether to build a dedicated plant to convert
plutonium into MOX fuel is not expected until 2015, a spokesman
for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority said. Britain's new
reactor fleet is not due to become operational until the 2020s,
with launch dates still subject to commercial discussions.
The UK government currently spends 2 billion pounds ($3.1
billion) a year to manage its growing plutonium stockpile.
The radioactive byproduct is found in used or spent fuel
when it is removed from a reactor. It can be extracted by
reprocessing and can then be reused to make MOX fuel, which can
be used to power other nuclear reactors.
"There are advantages to having national control over more
of the civil plutonium in the UK as this gives us greater
influence over how we ultimately manage it," Britain's minister
of state for energy, Michael Fallon, said in a statement.
The latest deals, agreed with Britain's Nuclear
Decommissioning Authority, involve a complex series of swaps to
take ownership of 750 kg of German-owned plutonium and 350 kg of
In addition, the state will assume control of 1,850 kg of
plutonium previously earmarked to repay to France.
In December 2011 Britain was home to 118.2 tonnes of
plutonium, of which 27.9 tonnes is owned by foreign entities,
according to the latest available data from the office for
DECC declined to say to what extent the ownership transfers
benefited UK taxpayers.
Greenpeace did not immediately have any comment.