Advertisement

The Windscale Inquiry: Technical Background

  • David Pearce
  • Lynne Edwards
  • Geoff Beuret

Abstract

One of the main reasons for the reprocessing of spent uranium oxide fuel is that of resource conservation. The fuel is termed ‘spent’ when it has been irradiated in a reactor for up to three years and is reaching the stage of diminishing efficiency in the production of heat through the fission of atoms. If retained in the reactor after this period heat is produced less efficiently and so the fuel is removed. 97 per cent of this irradiated fuel is uranium, up to 1 per cent is plutonium and 2–3 per cent is radioactive waste (Allday, 1977). As the fuel has been enriched — i.e. it has had uranium 235 added — it contains far more U235 after irradiation in a thermal reactor than is found in natural uranium. Reprocessing frees this uranium and plutonium from other actinides and fission products so that they may be reconverted into fuel for re-use in fast reactors and, conceivably, in thermal reactors. The effect of re-using the reprocessed fuel in a thermal reactor is to enable 30–40 per cent more power to be generated from the original material. However, such fuel can only used once. On the other hand recycling this material in a fast reactor would give an energy saving 50 times greater than that elicited from a thermal reactor (Allday, 1977). Hence the uranium and plutonium in spent oxide fuel is self-evidently a valuable source of energy if it can be recovered at a cost which permits the recycled U and Pu to have a value such that their use in thermal or fast reactors would provide power at a competitive price.1

Keywords

Fission Product Oxide Fuel Thermal Reactor Spend Fuel Uranium Oxide 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Allday, C. (1977) Evidence submitted to the Windscale Public Inquiry, Day 3.Google Scholar
  2. Price, B. T. (1977) Evidence submitted to the Windscale Public Inquiry, Day 52.Google Scholar
  3. Warner, B. F. (1977) Evidence submitted to the Windscale Public Inquiry, Day 12.Google Scholar
  4. Patterson, W. C. (1976) Nuclear Power (Pelican, London).Google Scholar
  5. Franklin, N. L. (1975) Irradiated Fuel Cycle (BNFL).Google Scholar
  6. Metz, W. D. (1977) ‘Reprocessing: How necessary is it for the near term?’, Science, April.Google Scholar
  7. Flowers, Sir Brian (1976) Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, Sixth Report, Nuclear Power and the Environment, Cmnd 6618 (HMSO).Google Scholar
  8. Conroy, C. (1978) What Choice Windscale? (FOE/CONSOC, London).Google Scholar
  9. Colton, J. P. (1978) ‘Spent Fuel Storage Alternatives’, IAEA Bulletin, February.Google Scholar
  10. Rose, D. J., and Lester, R. K. (1978) ‘Nuclear Power, Nuclear Weapons and International Stability’, Scientific American, April.Google Scholar
  11. Surrey, A. J. (1973) ‘The Future Growth of Nuclear Power’ — Part I, ‘Demand and Supply’, Energy Policy, September.Google Scholar
  12. Fox, Mr Justice (1977) Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry, First Report (Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra).Google Scholar
  13. Tolstoy, Professor I. Letter to The Times, 20 May 1978.Google Scholar
  14. Times, The (1978) ‘Committee to advise Minister on Nuclear Waste’, House of Commons Report, 17 May.Google Scholar
  15. Clelland, D. W. (1978) ‘The Management of Radioactive Wastes from Reprocessing Operations’, a paper given at the Conference on the Effective Management of the Nuclear Power Fuel Cycle — European Aspects of the Technology and Economics of Uranium (London, 22 March).Google Scholar
  16. Clelland, D. W. (1977) Evidence submitted to the Windscale Public Inquiry, Days 16 and 17.Google Scholar
  17. EEC Background Report (1978) ‘Making Nuclear Energy Safer’. ‘The Community’s Nuclear Safety Research Programme’ (London).Google Scholar
  18. Hazelhurst, P. (1978) ‘U.K. signs £500m nuclear deal with Japanese but US approval still needed’ Times, 25 May.Google Scholar
  19. Roberts, L. (1979) ‘Radioactive Waste — Policy and Perspective’, Atom, vol 267, January.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Social Science Research Council 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Pearce
  • Lynne Edwards
  • Geoff Beuret

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations