As well as dominating the news headlines, the delays to EDF’s Hinkley Point C are also creating waves over 300 miles to the north at Sellafield and the fate of its stockpile of 140 tonnes of separated plutonium recovered from decades of spent fuel reprocessing. A Government decision on how this stockpile is to be dealt which has been expected for some time has been put back for a decade – until around 2025 at the earliest. At a meeting on the 27th April of the Spent Fuel and Nuclear Materials Working Group (a sub-group of West Cumbria Sites Stakeholder Group WCSSG) the NDA outlined why it was now considered the UK Government was unlikely to come to a decision on the stockpile much before 2025. The reasoning behind the NDA’s projection is that the Government’s currently preferred option of re-using plutonium as Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel envisages the fuel being used in UK’s fleet of new-build reactors. Given that the first of these would not realistically be in operation until 2025 at the earliest – and would then need to operate for up to 10 years to reach a ‘steady state’ burning conventional uranium fuel,- any decision by the operator in favour of using MOX was unlikely to be made until 2035. To contemplate building a new commercial MOX plant (last estimated at £5Bn-£6Bn by the NDA in 2011) before new-build reactors were up and running and a firm interest in using MOX fuel shown by their operators would represent poor business practice.
CORE 28th April 2016 read more »