HANT (Highlands Against Nuclear Transport) is extremely concerned about the latest UK Government plan to transport 700 kg of highly enriched uranium to the US to be announced by the Prime Minister in Washington later today as part of a deal which will involve transport of nuclear materials back to Europe from the US. This announcement is typical of the drip feed of information released regularly which reveals that there are far more nuclear materials stored at Dounreay than previously reported HANT has since 2013 campaigned for greater openness and transparency and the secretive nature of all these plans fuels public concern with little democratic accountability to local communities This announcement is unacceptable for a number of reasons.
HANT 31st March 2016 read more »
Gordon Mackerron: A very unusual exchange is about to take place over the Atlantic. The UK is sending some 700kg of highly enriched uranium to be disposed of in the US, the largest amount that has ever been moved out of the country. In return, the US is sending other kinds of enriched uranium to Europe to help diagnose people with cancer. The vast majority of the UK’s waste comes from its fleet of nuclear power stations. Most of it is stored at the Sellafield site in north-west England. But the material being sent to the US is a particularly high (weapons usable) grade of enriched uranium that you wouldn’t want to move to Sellafield from its current location at Dounreay in the north of Scotland without building a new storage facility – presumably more expensive than the cost of transportation. The decision to move this radioactive waste out of the UK has been presented as making it harder for nuclear materials to get into the hands of terrorists, but this is implausible. The UK is capable of managing homegrown highly enriched uranium itself. The plan also contradicts the principle that countries are responsible for managing their own nuclear legacy. The announcement draws new attention to an old issue: how to find a long-term solution to nuclear waste. Countries with atomic weapons or civilian nuclear power have been wrestling with this for several decades. This is partly because the problem was neglected for years, but more fundamentally because governments have failed to develop a strategy acceptable to the communities affected. Sellafield stores a further 140 tonnes of waste plutonium that also stems from British and some overseas nuclear power. If used in bombs this amount could obliterate humanity several times over. The NDA is now focusing on what to do about this too, after years of political inattention. Yet the decision-making is laboured and the currently favoured solution of using the plutonium as fuel for conventional reactors lacks credibility – no operator wants to use plutonium-based fuel because it is more difficult and expensive to manage than conventional fuel; and moving it around the country is a security risk. So nuclear waste remains the Achilles heel of the nuclear industry, in the UK and elsewhere. While the financial problems behind the proposed new nuclear station Hinkley Point C attract most of the headlines, the waste problem hangs over the industry behind the scenes. Until we find a way forward that is scientifically and politically acceptable, it will continue to do so.
Business Insider 6th April 2016 read more »