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Plans to tackle Sellafield plutonium stockpile move step closer

Engineering giant GE Hitachi’s plans to re-use the UK’s legacy plutonium stockpile for a new nuclear power station in Sellafield in West Cumbria moved a step closer this week as the firm signed an agreement with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

The firm revealed it signed a feasibility study with the NDA on Tuesday to determine whether the firm can deploy its prototype Prism reactor at Sellafield.

GE Hitachi nuclear chief consulting engineer Eric Loewen told NCE the feasibility study should take about four months and has two main aims.

“We want to find out whether Prism is licensable in the UK and whether the spent fuel can be placed in a geological disposal facility (GDF) after its been used in the reactor,” said Loewen.

Loewen said GE Hitachi’s Prism reactor offers a better alternative to deal with the UK’s 87t plutonium stockpile rather than building a new mixed-oxide (mox) plant or treating it and putting directly into a GDF.

Sellafield site owner NDA invited proposals to deal with the plutonium stockpile in February, with constructing a new mox plant stated as its preferred option. But given the previous cost overruns using this technology, GE Hitachi’s plans could be developed as an alternative.

GE Hitachi nuclear plant projects senior vice president Daniel Roderick said the plant – costing in the region of £5bn – could be built without up-front cost to the taxpayer. GE Hitachi would recoup its investment by charging a fee to take the plutonium and selling the electricity generated from the reactor.

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