One thing we have learnt this week – nuclear waste and brexit

Is nuclear waste about to become a bargaining chip in brexit?   The UK government this has threatened to send a load of nuclear waste back to various EU countries if the UK is not allowed to “have its cake and eat it” over Euroatom.

Some background, although its very very complicated and I’m not going to go into any detail.  Over the years at least three different re-processing plants have been built at Sellafield.  All of them have tried to pick up foreign business which means nuclear waste being shipped to the UK from other countries.  All have ended in absolute or relative failure.  The Thorp re-processing plant opened in 1994 after taking almost 20 years to build.  In 2005 there was a disastrous leak of radioactive material (internally luckily) which had been going on for months but was not detected.  This plant seems to be operational again.

In 2001 another plant the MOX (mixed oxide plant) opened.  This was to re-process uranium and plutonium from light water reactors.  Again it was a failure only processing a tiny amount of its capacity.  It closed after the Japanese disaster in 2011 but has reopened again taking Japanese waste.  The pilot plant for this facility was involved in controversy when records were falsified.    This meant that Japanese waste had to be returned from Japan to the UK.

Nuclear expert David Lowry says we are still acquiring nuclear waste from other European countries.  Much of the waste comes from Japan.  That which is sitting here from Europe is doing so due to British failure.  We took it as a commercial venture. Waste is expensive, dangerous and a security risk to shift.  Are we going to carry out our threat?  Very unlikely and to do so means total failure of the entire brexit negotiations.


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