BE calls for a moratorium on the reprocessing of spent fuel from its AGR units — a move that would allow it to end its contractual commitments to BNFL. The BE submission states: “We should not foreclose using the potential energy value of plutonium and uranium by declaring them to be waste. However, given that there is no technical requirement to reprocess AGR fuel, and that storage would be considerably cheaper, there is no logic in adding to existing stocks (which are already sufficient for any foreseeable requirements).”

BNFL also believes that neither plutonium nor separated uranium should be classified as waste, but its submission does not mention the issue of AGR fuel reprocessing. BNFL says that the UK stockpile of separated plutonium represents “a considerable financial and technological investment in a significant potential future energy resource.”

BNFL advocates geological disposal as the most appropriate “final” solution. The submission notes that barriers to this solution tend to be socio-political and socio-economic, not technological.

BE also believes that the principles of sustainability and “inter-generational equity” would be best met by the phased co-disposal of all radioactive waste to a deep geological repository. The submission says that uncertainty following the 1997 decision to abandon plans for an underground rock laboratory or characterisation facility near Sellafield was the “main problem” with current policy.

Both companies told the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) committee on nuclear waste that the five-year consultation was “unduly long”. BE said that the timescale could be reduced as “the range of feasible options is already well understood.”