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Nuclear Reprocessing

Volume 932: debated on Wednesday 18 May 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy, upon the assumption that nuclear reprocessing facilities were disallowed in the United Kingdom, if he will compare the area of storage required for the spent fuel element and the benefits likely to be gained by the United Kingdom through the separation of fissile materials in spent fuels, waste products and the vitrification of that waste.

The reprocessing of Magnox fuel will continue. Should oxide reprocessing not be undertaken in the United Kingdom, additional storage for AGR fuel would be required. The capacity needed will depend on the method of long-term storage adopted but would be significantly greater than that required for concentrated waste arising from reprocessing in either liquid or vitrified form.In addition to this environmental advantage, reprocessing gives the United Kingdom access to recovered uranium and plutonium which may be recycled in either thermal or fast breeder reactors.

asked the Secretary of State for Energy, if the United Kingdom failed to reprocess its fuel element pursuant to President Carter's recommendations, what additional uranium 235 would be required up to 1990 to complete its nuclear programmes.

The United Kingdom will continue to have access to uranium through the reprocessing of Magnox fuel. Since the proposed oxide reprocessing plant at Windscale would not be operational until the late 1980s a decision not to proceed with it would have only a small effect on our uranium requirements up to 1990. I am advised that thereafter the recovered uranium from reprocessing would reduce by about 20 per cent. the lifetime uranium requirements of our AGR stations currently in operation and under construction.