The UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has taken ownership of four tonnes of German plutonium, by participating in a series of title swaps. An equivalent amount of plutonium will be made available in France for manufacture into mixed oxide (MOX) fuel for German reactors, removing the need for the UK to physically transport the plutonium to France.

 “The management of plutonium brings many challenges, but also opportunities to work with our European partners. This deal provides a new commercial opportunity for the UK that will bring significant financial benefits,” Charles Hendry, Minister of State for Energy, said.

The UK will deal with the plutonium in return for financial benefits, which exceed the long-term costs for the safe storage and management of the material. Under the agreement no additional German plutonium will be brought into the UK.

The agreement will improve security, as it removes the need for the UK to physically transport plutonium previously owned by German utilities from Sellafield to France for reprocessing.

It will also enhance nuclear security across Europe as it will mean a net reduction in the total amount of separated plutonium in storage.

The arrangements have been approved by the Euratom Supply Agency, the UK government said. They are now the subject of commercial agreements between the NDA, German utilities and AREVA NC.