Engineering giant GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) has today unveiled plans to re-use the UK’s legacy plutonium stockpile for a new nuclear power station in Sellafield in West Cumbria.
GEH wants to use build a full-scale version of its prototype Prism reactor in Sellafield. GEH chief engineer Eric Loewen believes using a Prism reactor would be a cost-effective alternative to treating the UK’s 87 tonnes plutonium stockpile than either building a new mixed-oxide (mox) plant or building a geological disposal facility (GDF).
Loewen says the Prism reactor uses metallic fuel, which is easier and cheaper to convert the plutonium than it is mox fuel. Loewen plans to build a new plant at Sellafield because all the stockpile is currently stored there and therefore does not need to be transported.
The firm has already signed a memorandum of understanding with consultant Arup, contractor Costain and energy consultancy Poyry to help develop their plans.
The Department for Energy and Climate Change launched a consultation in February to develop ways to deal with the UK’s plutonium. The preferred option is to build a GDF, but remains open to alternative proposals that offer “better value to the taxpayer”.