Press release

Plutonium deal brings security benefits

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Government has agreed that the NDA can conduct a series of plutonium title swaps and title transfers with legacy overseas reprocessing customers.

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Press notice: 13/039

The Government has agreed that the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority can conduct a series of plutonium title swaps and title transfers with legacy overseas reprocessing customers.

These swaps and transfers offer a cost effective and beneficial arrangement which allows the UK to gain national control over more of the civil plutonium in the UK and avoids the need to physically transport separated plutonium and its associated significant security measures.

In detail the NDA is:

  1. Participating in a series of swaps of plutonium material which will result in the NDA taking ownership of around 750 kg of plutonium stored in the UK, previously owned by certain German utilities.
  2. Facilitating a swap of plutonium ownership between Japanese and German utilities which will result in a decrease of about 650 kg of German owned plutonium in the UK and an equivalent increase in Japanese owned plutonium in the UK.
  3. Taking ownership to around 1850 kg plutonium that was originally allocated to repay plutonium loans (to France) in relation to historic MOX fuel subcontracts.
  4. Taking ownership of around 350 kg of material previously owned by Dutch Utilities.

These transactions will not result in any new plutonium being brought into the UK and will not increase the overall amount of plutonium in the UK. It will however enable a net reduction in the total amount of separated plutonium stored in Europe, as it allows German nuclear operators to turn it into fuel for their existing reactors. The financial benefits to the UK of taking ownership are considered to be sufficient to offset the estimated long term cost of managing that plutonium in the UK.

Baroness Verma, Minister of State for Energy, said:

“This is about dealing with plutonium, already in the UK, which has arisen from legacy overseas reprocessing contracts, in a responsible and appropriate manner. These swaps and title transfers benefit the UK, firstly by avoiding the need to transport separated plutonium overseas, which carries with it the associated significant security measures and secondly by affording us control over more of the civil plutonium in the UK which in turn gives us greater certainty over how we can deal with our overall plutonium legacy.”

Notes for editors:

  1. Written Ministerial Statement by Michael Fallon
  2. The Government’s consultation response to the long-term management of UK-owned separated civil plutonium
Published 23 April 2013