UK needs to recycle its stockpile of waste plutonium into fuel
Former chief scientific adviser to the government Sir David King has today urged the government to recycle its giant stockpile of waste plutonium into fuel for new-build nuclear reactors, as part of a major new report calling for an overhaul of the UK’s nuclear energy sector.
The report from the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University investigates how the UK should manage its huge stocks of separated plutonium, reprocessed uranium and spent fuel.
It examines the costs, risks and environmental impacts of four possible scenarios, three of which analyse different options for recycling spent fuel into new fuel, and one that considers what would happen if the UK continued to treat spent fuel as waste for disposal.
Speaking at the launch of the report this morning, King insisted that there is no need for the UK to delay or scrap the new nuclear build programme in light of the crisis in Japan, arguing that there is “a massive economic economic opportunity for converting plutonium, which is a potential danger, into fuel”.
The report warns that all four scenarios would be expensive, but maintains that there is no cheaper “do nothing” option because the UK must deal with its stocks of nuclear materials and spent fuel.
Significantly, the report suggests that the cost of recycling waste materials could be paid for by the private sector and offset by the value of the new fuel produced. In contrast, treating spent fuel as waste would not generate any income and the cost would almost inevitably fall to taxpayers.
However, the report also warns that the government must adapt its nuclear policy and establish incentives to encourage investment in order to start recycling fuel.
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]UK needs to recycle its stockpile of waste plutonium into fuel,
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