Global Security Newswire
Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues
U.K. Drops Proposal for Plutonium Power Reactor
The United Kingdom has ruled out a proposal for construction of a power reactor to consume 82 metric tons of plutonium at the nation's Sellafield nuclear facility, in part because the system would require conversion of the fissile substance to a more weapon-usable form, the London Guardian reported on Tuesday (see GSN, Oct. 14, 2011).
The "Prism" system, put forward in November by GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy, would use sodium-cooled fast reactor technology intended to generate electricity using plutonium metal. The plutonium at Sellafield is presently in oxide form.
The design relies on an underdeveloped technology that lacks a market track record, and the system would generate significant quantities of plutonium-tainted refuse, the British Nuclear Decommissioning Authority stated in e-mails obtained by the Guardian.
The entities behind the proposal "have struggled to reach a clear agreement on the work necessary to demonstrate credibility, without which neither NDA nor government can consider Prism further in the development of our strategy," Adrian Simper, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority's strategy and technology chief, wrote in a Nov. 29 communication to the proposing firm.
A "high-level assessment" by the atomic authority found that the Prism design was "still to be demonstrated commercially," and "the technology maturity for the fuel, reactor and recycling plant are considered to all be low," the office said in a preliminary finding written for the British Energy and Climate Change Department.
Plutonium metal's higher suitability for use in nuclear weapons "would introduce more security/proliferation risk," the agency added. "In summary the Prism concept is unlikely to start before 2050 and as such does not appear to meet the requirement for deployment within 25 years" (Rob Edwards, London Guardian, Jan. 24).
March 19, 2014
In a new Project Syndicate op-ed, NTI President Joan Rohlfing calls for leaders at the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit to establish a global nuclear security system.
March 13, 2014
On Friday, March 14, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meet to discuss the crisis in Ukraine. Five statesmen from Germany, Poland, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States call for the urgent formation of a Contact Group of Foreign Ministers to address the crisis and more broadly, create a new approach to building mutual security in the Euro-Atlantic region.
This article provides an overview of the United Kingdom’s historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.