GE, Hitachi Propose Plant to Burn U.K.’s Plutonium Stockpile
Hitachi Ltd. (6501) and General Electric Co. (GE) have proposed building a nuclear reactor powered by the U.K.’s 87-metric ton plutonium stockpile, the world’s largest civilian accumulation of the waste.
The venture’s 600-megawatt Prism Fast Reactor could power as many as 750,000 homes, according to nuclear plant project Vice President Danny Roderick. The plant would take about five years to build and be operational for 60 years, he said. During that period it would burn 100 metric tons of plutonium.
The British government is consulting on ways to manage its stockpile of plutonium, stored at Sellafield in northwest England. One option is to turn the radioactive metal, a byproduct of uranium-fueled plants, into mixed-oxide fuel, known as MOX, which could be burned in conventional reactors. Building a fast reactor is a much more direct way of dealing with the waste, Roderick said.
“The advantage we have is that we take something people are trying to get rid of and turn it into something people can use,” the executive said in a telephone interview. “It’s going to be an investment of several billion dollars, but our analysis shows that if you add the total cost of using MOX fuel, this is much more economical.”
The GE Hitachi Prism reactor is the commercial product of a plant developed by the U.S. government, a plutonium-fueled fast reactor, the EBR II, that operated for 30 years. Within five years of first being used to fuel the fast reactor, the spent fuel bundles are safe for disposal, GE Hitachi Chief Consulting Engineer Eric Loewen said.
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