AECL considers burning Pu

29 April 1999

Atomic Energy of Canada is planning to test burn surplus plutonium from the Russian and American weapons programmes. The Canadian government has said it will hold full-scale environmental and safety reviews before it gives the go ahead for MOX fuel to be used in CANDU reactors, despite a parliamentary committee rejecting the proposal.

“We are prepared to consider any safe and financially viable proposal based on an agreement between the United States and Russia,” said Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien in a letter to President Clinton. A feasibility test with a small quantity of plutonium could take place later this year.

The CANDU reactors are thought to be ideal for MOX fuel burning (See NEI April, p30) and Chrétien first proposed disposing of excess Pu in CANDU reactors in 1996.

In another development, Cameco has joined with Cogema and Nukem in signing a deal with Techsnabexport, Minatom’s commercial arm, to purchase low enriched uranium diluted from HEU formerly part of the Russian nuclear arsenal. The deal is a development from the 1993 ‘Megatons to Megawatts’ agreement between Russia and the United States in which Russia is to deliver the equivalent of 500 tons of HEU in diluted LEU form to the US to burn in commercial reactors over 20 years.

The companies have taken exclusive options on 260 million pounds of U3O8 equivalent out of 360 million pounds to be delivered over the next 15 years.

“It [the agreement] should permit the Russian Federation to receive maximum value for its weapons derived uranium, thereby encouraging the process of disarmament,” said Cameco ceo Bernard Michel. “At the same time, the commercial agreement will provide Cameco with additional business opportunities using an alternate source of uranium.”

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