Radioactive Waste Management

UK threatens to send nuclear waste to EU if deal remains unreached

Britain has warned the EU that if no nuclear waste deal is reached during the Brexit negotiations, it will return it back to the state.

Taken in Brussels as a thinly veiled threat, a paper on the UK position for negotiations stresses the right to “return radioactive waste to its country of origin.”

The country currently looks after a 126-tonne stockpile of radioactive materials originating from various EU countries.

A nuclear power plant in Cumbria has been reprocessing nuclear materials for decades and has been producing reusable uranium, plutonium, and other radioactive waste.

Although Britain has signalled that it will be leaving the Euraotom treaty, it wishes to cooperate on nuclear regulation after the UK leaves the union in March 2019.

The treaty, of which the country has been a part of since 1957, regulates the civilian use of atomic technology.

Critics of the Government have stated that there could be a threat of disruption to UK supplies of nuclear reactor parts, fuel, and medical isotopes.

The isotopes in question are regularly used to treat cancer as approximately 500,000 scans are performed in the UK every year using imported radioisotopes.

Nuclear waste is proving to be one of the most complex issues in the opening Brexit negotiations and leaders of the UK’s nuclear industry are already lobbying the Government to discover a way to remain in the Euraotom treaty.

Despite the coded warning to the EU, separating UK plutonium from EU fuel would be a complex task as under Euratom law, all fissile material within the treaty is considered commonly owned.

Francis Livens, director of the Dalton Institute at Manchester University, in conversation with The Financial Times, said: “Reprocessing is like a sausage machine. You put in some British fuel, then some Japanese, then some Belgium.”

“You can’t point to a single atom and say ‘that’s Belgian.’” he said.

The UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said that negotiations are to focus on “legal ownership not physical location” of nuclear materials and that it “will be a matter for the owner and the UK to agree on commercial terms.”

Andy has worked as a freelance journalist for a number of years and has been published in some of the UK’s top newspapers. He is now the editor Commercial Waste Magazine and contributes to a large selection of headlines and blog articles on the site.

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