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U.K. to Mull Case for Plutonium Power Reactor

The United Kingdom is set to evaluate an atomic firm's 1,000-page defense of a potential power reactor as a financially and technologically workable means of consuming roughly 100 metric tons of unwanted plutonium that is considered a threat, the London Guardian reported on Monday (see GSN, Jan. 25).

GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy on Monday provided the assessment of its "Prism" system to the British Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which previously determined the recommended sodium-cooled fast reactor would remain unviable from a business perspective for a number of decades. The company has described the system as a superior alternative to the present "preferred option" of turning the plutonium into mixed-oxide fuel for standard atomic energy systems; a prior British MOX facility was considered unsuccessful, according to the Guardian.

"No fundamental impediment(s)" exist for domestic approval for the Prism system, the organization DBD Limited said in an analysis provided in the GE-Hitachi paper.

Separately, a viability study is being prepared for eliminating the plutonium with an atomic system based on CANDU technology. The government has ruled out a pair of additional plutonium consumption plans put forward by citizens.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority would revise its recommendations in late 2012 after reviewing the Prism and CANDU assessments, according to a spokesman. The Nuclear Regulation Office would then receive a conclusive determination on the matter from officials.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority said approval, deliberation and building processes for the new facility would require roughly one decade and the new site would likely launch operations in "the early years" of the 2020s (Duncan Clark, London Guardian, July 9).

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