Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Plutonium re-usage plan leads to job hopes at N-plant

January 4, 2008

THE huge stockpile of plutonium at Sellafield could bring new hopes for a site threatened by the loss of 10,000 jobs over the next 15 years.

Consultants engaged by the site’s owners, the NDA, have suggested it might be commercially viable to re-use the potentially dangerous material.

This could pave the way for a new plutonium recycling facility at Sellafield, along with extended life for the Thorp reprocessing plant.

But nothing can be done until the government finally decides if it wants Britain to have a new generation of nuclear reactors.

Bill Hamilton, NDA head of communications, said: “What’s happened so far is that we asked consultants how to deal with radioactive spent fuel and other nuclear materials in future.

“They think the re-use of this material is potentially viable.

“We would have to spend billions to get billions back, so things can change.

“A lot depends on uranium supplies and electricity prices and whether we get new reactors.

“We haven’t taken any decision and can’t.

“The government must decide on whether there will be a new build programme for nuclear reactors.

“That won’t be until early in the (year).

“If it does happen, then we will carry out detailed work on the option.

“It’s something which Sellafield Ltd, and before that BNG as the site operators, have been looking at for some time.

“Sellafield already has an expensive plant (SMP) to convert plutonium and uranium into Mox fuel for re-use in reactors but it has still not been fully commissioned after years of operation and the NDA is closely watching its performance.”

The authority cannot rule out the possibility of another plutonium recycling plant being built and admitted that Thorp could be

refurbished if there is a need to re-use nuclear material.

Any new Sellafield plant would cost several billion pounds, but the investment would secure many long-term jobs in the face of the predicted large-scale redundancies.

Sir David King, the government’s retiring chief scientific officer, recently said: “We can bury our reactor waste or re-use it as free fuel for life.”

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