Spent fuel stockpile is a Dounreay dilemma

The nuclear industry is facing a dilemma over what to do with 16 tonnes of highly enriched spent fuel at the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s (UKAEA) Dounreay site. It had been assumed that the fuel from UKAE’s prototype fast reactors would be reprocessed at Dounreay, but the Government’s Radioactive Waste Advisory Committee said last month […]

The nuclear industry is facing a dilemma over what to do with 16 tonnes of highly enriched spent fuel at the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s (UKAEA) Dounreay site.

It had been assumed that the fuel from UKAE’s prototype fast reactors would be reprocessed at Dounreay, but the Government’s Radioactive Waste Advisory Committee said last month that reprocessing elsewhere and storage on site should be considered first.

Dounreay’s two reprocessing plants, shut down since 1996, could cost £45m to put back into service.

But the alternatives look even more expensive. UKAEA chief executive John McKeown said last year he did not think the highly enriched uranium and plutonium fuel could be safely stored long-term. BNFL said the proposal to reprocess the fuel at Sellafield, the UK’s only other reprocessing facility, was impractical and uneconomic.