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General Electric set out proposals on Wednesday to build a new nuclear reactor at Sellafield that would convert the UK's stockpile of radioactive plutonium into electricity.
The multibillion pound project would take plutonium – the residue from the UK's nuclear power plants – and use it as fuel for a 600MW reactor that could provide power for 750,000 homes, according to GE Hitachi.
Originally posted by Trolloks
Great idea, now to just wait and see if this will make the electric bill affordable.
Originally posted by diddy1234
The energy companies here in the UK have 'got used' to ripping us off now and will continue to do so until the energy regulator grows a pair and tells them what to do (which wont happen).
Prism proposed for UK plutonium disposal
The proposal comes as the UK government consults on ways to manage its stockpile of uranium. The country is currently storing about 112 tonnes of civil separated plutonium at Sellafield, including some 28 tonnes of material belonging to overseas customers. The plutonium stored in the UK has been derived largely from nuclear fuel reprocessing activities that have been ongoing at Sellafield since the 1950s.
GEH has now suggested to the UK government that a plant comprising two 311 MWe Prism (Power Reactor Innovative Small Module) units should be built at Sellafield. The pool-type modules, built below ground level, contain the complete primary system with sodium coolant. These units would irradiate fuel made from the plutonium stored at the site. This fuel would consist of a mix of metal plutonium and depleted uranium. After 45-90 days of irradiation, GEH said that the fuel would be brought up to 'spent fuel standard' of radioactivity, after which is could be stored in air-cooled silos. It would then be suitable for disposal alongside the UK’s other high-level forms of radioactive waste.
According to GEH, the UK's entire plutonium stockpile could be irradiated in such a plant within five years, during which time the plant could also generate some electricity. Once all the stockpile of plutonium has been irradiated, the Prism plant could then start re-using the fuel solely for electricity generation. Fuel stays in the Prism reactor for about six years, with one-third removed every two years. The plant could operate for up to 60 years. Although used Prism fuel can be recycled after removal of fission products, GEH's proposal does not include a reprocessing plant at Sellafield, although one could be added later.
GEH anticipates the cost of the Sellafield plant would be comparable to that of a large conventional reactor. The company said that it has started to develop a supply chain in the UK to support its proposal.
We need to talk about Sellafield, and a nuclear solution that ticks all our boxes
There are reactors which can convert radioactive waste to energy. Greens should look to science, rather than superstition
Let me begin with the context. Like other countries suffering from the idiotic short-termism of the early nuclear power industry, the UK faces a massive bill for the storage and disposal of radioactive waste. The same goes for the waste produced by nuclear weapons manufacturing. But is this really waste, or could we see it another way?
Conventional nuclear power uses just 0.6% of the energy contained in the uranium that fuels it. Integral fast reactors can use almost all the rest. There is already enough nuclear waste on earth to meet the world's energy needs for several hundred years, with scarcely any carbon emissions. IFRs need be loaded with fissile material just once. From then on they can keep recycling it, extracting ever more of its energy, until a small fraction of the waste remains. Its components have half-lives of tens, rather than millions, of years. This makes them more dangerous in the short term but much easier to manage in the long term. When the hot waste has been used up, the IFRs can be loaded with depleted uranium (U-238), of which the world has a massive stockpile.
But there's a better demonstration that it's good to go: last week GE Hitachi (GEH) told the British government that it could build a fast reactor within five years to use up the waste plutonium at Sellafield, and if it doesn't work, the UK won't have to pay. A fast reactor has been running in Russia for 30 years, and similar plants are now being built in China and India. GEH's proposed PRISM reactor uses the same generating technology as the IFR, though the current proposal doesn't include the reprocessing plant. It should.
If the government does not accept GEH's offer, it will, as the energy department revealed on Thursday, handle the waste through mixed oxide processing (mox) instead. This will produce a fuel hardly anyone wants while generating more waste plutonium than we possess already. It will raise the total energy the industry harvests from 0.6% to 0.8%.
UK NDA still considering GE-Hitachi fast reactors at Sellafield for plutonium disposition
He said the NDA was prepared to provide financial support to develop the proposals if ongoing discussions demonstrate promise.
The GE-Hitachi proposals involve burning the UK’s plutonium stockpiles in the Power Reactor Innovative Small Module (Prism) fast reactors.
The burned plutonium fuel would reach IAEA spent fuel standards of radioactivity in as little as a few months, according to GEH, and could then be stored for recycling or burial.
The Prism reactors could also be used to generate electricity, and therefore income, for the NDA, under the proposal.
“The information used in this (Guardian) story is out of date and misleading to readers,” a GEH spokesman said January 24 in an emailed statement to i-NUCLEAR. He said Prism was only launched on the 30th November last year and that until that time “only very limited formal information was provided by GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy to any external parties, including the NDA, on the technology and its benefits,” the spokesman said.
GEH’s proposal represents an alternative to the government’s preferred option announced in December of using the plutonium in mixed-oxide, or MOX, fuel to be used in commercially available light water reactors.
The Prism reactor remains a prototype, although the US NRC has issued a preliminary safety evaluation report on the design.
Hamilton said the NDA has not rejected nor ruled out the GEH proposal. If the proposal would turn out to be potentially advantageous to the NDA, it would consider contributing money to advance the proposals, Hamilton said.
“At the moment there has been no contractualisation,” he said.
A generation of "fast" nuclear reactors could consume Britain's radioactive waste stockpile as fuel, providing enough low-carbon electricity to power the country for more than 500 years, according to figures confirmed by the chief scientific adviser to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc).
Britain's large stockpile of nuclear waste includes more than 100 tonnes of plutonium and 35,000 tonnes of depleted uranium. The plutonium in particular presents a security risk as a potential target for terrorists and will cost billions to dispose of safely. The government is currently considering options for disposing of or managing it.