The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has launched a consultation on whether to allow the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) not to reprocess small quantities of overseas origin oxide fuels that are either not economic or not possible to reprocess in Sellafield’s Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP) before its currently scheduled closure date of 2018. The consultation closes on 28th May 2014.
DECC says around 300 tonnes of overseas origin spent fuel still remain to be reprocessed, but 30 tonnes of this fuel is made up of small amounts of prototype fuels, experimental fuels, MOX (plutonium) fuels and some materials leftover from research programmes, which would be challenging to deal with through reprocessing, before the planned closure of THORP in 2018.
What the NDA wants to do is to send back to the customer countries an amount of waste and plutonium equivalent to the amount which would be sent back if the spent fuel was reprocessed. This is known as ‘virtual reprocessing’.
But if the Government can sanction “virtual reprocessing” for 30 tonnes of residual spent fuel why can’t the same be done now for the remaining 300 tonnes of overseas fuel and any remaining AGR spent fuel which is still slated for reprocessing so that THORP can shut now? After all, nobody needs any more plutonium.
A Nuclear Free Local Authorities Briefing on the consulation is available on their website.