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Plutonium

The UK has been amassing its plutonium stockpile since the 1950s, but is yet to make a decision on its long term management.

The key points in this POSTnote are:

  • The UK is storing the largest ‘separated’ civil plutonium stockpile in the world. This poses safety, security and cost challenges.
  • The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is assessing long term options for managing the stockpile with industry pushing for a timetable for the selection and delivery of an option.
  • Options include disposal of the plutonium in a treated form, reusing it as fuel in UK power plants or sending plutonium overseas in fuel form.
  • These options all reduce some of the safety and security concerns associated with storage, but they introduce their own risks.
  • Energy policy goals would be helped by one option: reusing the plutonium as fuel in UK power plants.
  • It is not currently clear which of the options offers the best economic value for money.

Acknowledgements

POSTnotes are based on literature reviews and interviews with a range of stakeholders and are externally peer reviewed. POST would like to thank interviewees and peer reviewers for kindly giving up their time during the preparation of this briefing, including:

  • Sylvian Esperou du Tremblay – Areva
  • Tony Morris – Candu
  • Laurence Williams – Committee on Radioactive Waste Management
  • Francis Livens – Dalton Institute
  • Department of Energy and Climate Change (now BEIS)
  • Colin Hardman – Environment Agency
  • David Powell – GE Power and Water
  • Doug Parr – Greenpeace
  • Fiona Rayment – National Nuclear Laboratory
  • Office for Nuclear Regulation
  • Nuclear Decommissioning Authority
  • Peter Haslam and Rachel Dowling – Nuclear Industry Association
  • David Lowry – Nuclear Waste Advisory Associates
  • Cherry Tweed and Sarah Read – Radioactive Waste Management Ltd
  • Craig Dobson – Unite
  • Bruce Hanson – University of Leeds
  • Neil Hyatt – University of Sheffield
  • Stephen Tindale – Weinberg Foundation

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