The UK has a 100 tonne stockpile of plutonium nuclear waste which the government has been trying to get rid of for years. One option that has been considered is to convert the plutonium into a mixed-oxide fuel (Mox), and then use it to fuel conventional nuclear reactors.
Unfortunately a trial Mox plant in the UK failed. Another option is to use the plutonium waste in a fast reactor. The fast reactor would be able to extract far large quantities of energy than a Mox reactor. In fact back in February, David MacKay, the chief scientist at the Department of Energy and Climate Change said that the UK’s nuclear waste stockpile was enough to power the country for more than 500 years if used in a fast reactor.
The UK’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) previously dismissed fast reactors as being decades from commercial viability. However on Monday GE-Hitachi submitted a thousand page feasibility report designed to persuade the NDA that the technology in their Prism fast reactor is already available and competitive.
The NDA has also received another proposal to deal with the radioactive waste from a Canadian firm who have designed a Candu reactor to be run on Mox fuel. The NDA will review both reports and then advise the government towards the end of the year. The government can then make their decision and refer the winning option to the Office of Nuclear Regulation.