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Plutonium (Military Uses)

Volume 21: debated on Thursday 1 April 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether any plutonium produced in the Central Electricity Generating Board's magnox reactors has been used for weapons purposes or other military purposes.

I refer the hon. Member to the statement made by the Prime Minister on 21 April 1964, in the course of which he said:

"Our plans do not envisage the use of any of the plutonium produced in our civil reactors in the United Kingdom weapons programme, and I am informed by the United States Government that they have no intention of using the plutonium received from us for weapons purposes".—[Official Report, 21 April 1964; Vol. 693, c. 1098.]
I can confirm that there have been no subsequent transfers of United Kingdom civil plutonium to the United States under the United States/United Kingdom Defence Agreement, nor have there been any transfers within the United Kingdom for weapons purposes of any plutonium produced in the CEGB or SSEB's reactors.The production of plutonium in the boards' reactors and its subsequent allocation or use is set out in the following table:

Allocation of Plutonium produced in CEGB and SSEB Magnox reactor
Plutonium in irradiated fuel*
(a) Estimated plutonium in fuel in CEGB/SSEB Magnox reactors
(b) Estimated plutonium in fuel discharged from CEGB/SSEB Magnox reactors, but not yet reprocessed
Separated Plutonium*
(c) In stock at British Nuclear Fuels Ltd as oxide14½
(d) In process at British Nuclear Fuels Ltd In intermediate or other forms (eg nitrate)½
(e) Sold or leased to UKAEA for Fast Reactor R and D over the period 1969 to 1981
(f) Exported for civil purposes to countries other than the US½
Sub total of civil plutonium production in published information33
(g) Balance See note (g)


* Position at 31 December 1981.

(a) These figures are derived from the known tonnage of fuel elements and their estimated overall average irradiation and cannot be accurately calculated.

(b) As for (a). The figure of 4½ tonnes given in reply to the hon. Member on 29 October has been updated, and plutonium in overseas magnox irradiated fuel has been deducted from that figure.

(c) Figure updated to 31 December 1981 from figure of 12 tomes given in reply to the hon. Member on 6 April 1981.

(d) Figures not previously published.

(e) Figure given in reply to the hon. Member on 6 April was 6 tomes. Stock has been reduced by ½ tonne which is now shown under (c).

(f) This figure is part of the figure of 1·28 tomes given in reply to the hon. Member on 14 May 1981 of United Kingdom exports of civil plutonium. The remainder of the 1·28 tomes was owned by BNFL and produced in Chapelcross and Calder Hall reactors, and is therefore not included in this table.

(g) The balance of plutonium produced in the Boards' magnox reactors was consigned to the United States before 1971 under the United States/United Kingdom Defence Agreement, and as stated by the Prime Minister on 21 April 1964 was used by the United States for civil purposes. Because of the barter arrangements under which this plutonium was consigned, it would not be in the national interest to publish this figure.