Timon Singh

UK Proposes MOX Power Plants to Reuse Stockpile of Separated Plutonium

by , 10/15/11
filed under: News, Renewable Energy

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Since Japan’s Fukushima disaster, countries around the world have been assessing their individual futures with nuclear energy. Japan and Germany are both planning phase-outs, but many other governments are still debating the issue. In the UK, the Royal Society has proposed an innovative solution: construct mixed-oxide fuel (MOX) plant to reuse the country’s large stockpile of separated plutonium as part of a long-term nuclear strategy.


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The proposal has been issued to the UK government and would see used plutonium converted into MOX fuel for potential re-use in a new generation of thermal light-water reactors. In essence, the UK would use nuclear waste to create new energy.

“This is the only way of dealing with it which is reliable,” said Roger Cashmore, chair of the Royal Society working group and head of the UK’s Atomic Energy Authority. Considering the alternative is burying it into the earth or moutain storage sites, he has a point.

Unfortunately, the times are changing on the other side of the Atlantic and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority announced several months ago it would close the MOX plant in Sellafield.

The construction of additional MOX power plants would also allow the UK to lead the market in reprocessed fuels, which has grown since Japan shut down its reactors. The UK also has the largest stockpile of separated plutonium in the world at a terrifying 112 tonnes – not only does this pose an environmental risk, but also a security one with nuclear waste being key for the creation of dirty bombs.

If the UK is to meet its 2020 alternative energy targets, then this plan may get strong consideration. But of course, as the government has proposed an additional 16GW of new nuclear capacity by 2025, it is almost definite.

+ Royal Society

Via Industrial Fuels and Power

Images: avail and xueexueg

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2 Comments

  1. FroguetteMiNote October 15, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    You know the saying, “if it looks too good to be true, it *is* too good to be true”?

    Well, Mox has at least 90% uranium in it, is much more hazardous to produce, handle and transport than uranium, more dangerous to use in any type of reactor and much slower to cool down than regular fuel after it is “burned” (spent nuclear fuel is a major threat these days, much more than nuclear power plants or weapons grade plutonium).
    Also, and even more importantly, weapons grade plutonium CANNOT be recycled into MOX.

    (+ BTW spent Mox fuel is impossible to reuse.)

    So to me this proposal verges on a political scam, based on financial nuclear lobby parrott talk (alas, it might be that politicians themselves are scammed in the process). :(

  2. lazyreader October 13, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    MOX fuel is essentially leftovers, what a better way to get rid of it than to put it to work in the energy sector. It also proposes an interesting solution as to what to do with nuclear warhead stockpile when arms limitation reduces the need for active warheads which cannot be stored indefinitely.

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