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

The arrangements involve five countries: Germany, France, the Netherlands, Japan and the UK.

They will see NDA take ownership of around 750 kg of plutonium owned by German utilities, as well as 1850 kg plutonium that was originally allocated to pay plutonium loans to France and 350 kg of material previously owned by Dutch utilities.

NDA will also facilitate 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.

The title swaps and transfers will not result in any increase in the amount of plutonium held in the country, The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said. However, they will avoid the need to physically transport separated plutonium overseas, which carries with it "significant security measures," and will also give the UK "control" over more of the civil plutonium in the UK.

DECC described the agreement as "a cost effective and beneficial arrangement." It said that 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.

Photo: Most of the UK’s plutonium is stored at Sellafield