It would be cheaper for the UK to reprocess its spent fuel and reuse its plutonium stockpiles in mixed oxide (MOx) fuel than disposing of them as a waste, according to a new report from the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment (SSEE). The report, headed by Sir David King, former government chief scientific advisor, says that the UK has a "window of opportunity" to deal with its nuclear material and spent fuel management in order to maximise the value of its existing assets.
The UK-owned stockpile of separated plutonium is expected to reach 100 tonnes in the coming years. The country also has stockpiles of uranium from enrichment operations (tails) and reprocessing (REPU), and some 6000teHM of spent AGR fuel produced after 2007. Currently this material is classed as a zero-value asset. Going forward there are two options for this material - it can either be treated as a resource for recyling into new fuel or as a waste for disposal. Both approaches would require the development and management of plants at significant cost, however analysis of four different scenarios finds that there is an economic case for reprocessing.
The UK recently launched a consultation on its plans.