Nuclear Decommissioning Authority deems GE Hitachi’s PRISM Reactor a Credible Option for Managing Plutonium Stockpile

Posted on January 20, 2014

LONDON – January 20, 2014 – GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) has welcomed today’s announcement by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) that its PRISM reactor technology is a “credible option” for managing the UK’s plutonium stockpile.

After an investigation into the potential of the various alternative options for plutonium reuse, the NDA has affirmed GEH’s view that PRISM could reuse plutonium faster than competing technologies; providing significant value for money to the UK taxpayer.

NDA’s announcement follows a two-year review process which now gives the green light for PRISM – a high energy, sodium-cooled reactor that uses proven, safe, and advanced technologies – to be considered  as a credible option to manage the Sellafield plutonium stockpile.

“For more than 50 years GE has been at the forefront of energy innovation and nuclear technology and GE Hitachi’s PRISM reactor offers an attractive solution to tackling the UK’s plutonium management challenges while generating clean electricity,” said Mark Elborne, President and CEO of GE UK & Ireland.

“The UK has the largest storage of civil plutonium anywhere in the world and its Government is committed to re-using that material as an asset rather than a liability, maximizing taxpayer benefits. We believe PRISM offers the most effective solution for accomplishing this goal and look forward to the next stage of this process.”

The Government previously stated a preferred option to build a new MOX plant at Sellafield but, in an effort to gather data on technologies that offer better value or less risk to the taxpayer, responded to GEH’s interest in providing a credible alternative option for the management of plutonium, the PRISM advanced reactor.

Elborne went on: “PRISM can not only re-use the UK plutonium stockpile safely and responsibly whilst generating a step-change in industrial opportunity, but can also provide significant revenue for UK taxpayers. This is a socially and financially responsible solution”.

Editor’s Notes:

NDA Conclusions

In its review, the NDA noted a number of benefits of using PRISM including a reduced time to disposition of the UK stockpile due to greater incorporation of plutonium in the fuel, and a simplified fuel manufacturing and reactor construction process – all of which reduce the costs of implementation.

While further understanding of the approach to implementation and commercialisation was needed according to the NDA, PRISM offers a “simplified fuel manufacturing process and reactor construction, and the ability to utilise the full inventory of plutonium which should consequently reduce the overall costs”, which with a guaranteed market for PRISM’s by-product – electricity – demonstrates PRISM has several distinct advantages over alternative options. PRISM could also be the first truly sustainable nuclear technology, with the potential to recycle used nuclear fuel, reprocessed uranium, and unused fuel from past nuclear reactor programs.

The NDA’s full paper is available here.

PRISM reactor basics

The PRISM reactor is the evolution of proven sodium reactor technology, developed and tested over 30 years in the U.S. It also incorporates lessons learned from other sodium reactors operated around the world.

Sodium cooled reactors differ from water cooled reactors in that all constituents (chemical contaminants and all isotopes of decay) of the stored plutonium are used as fuel. Higher energy neutrons are better suited to this fuel type.

PRISM is capable of making the entire UK plutonium stockpile proliferation resistant as fast the UK government resources and policy will allow. Due to the inherent robustness of the technology, PRISM is also capable of processing all of the characterised plutonium in storage to create low carbon electricity.

A PRISM plant with one power block produces more than 600MWe for the UK grid, enough low carbon electricity to power 600,000 homes each year.

Website

For further information about PRISM, visit www.gehitachiprism.com

About GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy

Based in Wilmington, N.C., GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) is a world-leading provider of advanced reactors and nuclear services. Established in June 2007, GEH is a part of a global nuclear alliance created by GE and Hitachi to serve the global nuclear industry. The nuclear alliance executes a single, strategic vision to create a broader portfolio of solutions, expanding its capabilities for new reactor and service opportunities. The alliance offers customers around the world the technological leadership required to effectively enhance reactor performance, power output and safety.

For more information contact:

Jon Allen
GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy
+1 910-819-2581
Jonathan.Allen1@ge.com

Tris Denton
Edelman Public Relations
+44 (0)20 3047 2652
Tristram.Denton@edelman.com