Separated Civil Plutonium Inventories: Current Status and Future Directions

by David Albright

April 1, 2004

Revised June 10, 2004

The amount of separated or unirradiated civil plutonium in the world has continued to increase. Many national programs that use separated plutonium as mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel in light-water reactors (LWRs) have progressed slower than expected. The few “breeder” or fast reactors have played a small role in absorbing these stocks of separated plutonium.

This upward trend in stocks of unirradiated plutonium is expected to continue, at least for several more years. There is consensus in the international community that stockpiles of separated plutonium should be minimized because they are a proliferation hazard. Achieving this goal, however, remains difficult.

A newer category of civil plutonium is plutonium declared excess to defense requirements. Britain, Russia, and the United States have declared plutonium excess to military requirements. Russia and the United States have agreed to each convert 34 tonnes of weapon-grade plutonium into MOX fuel and irradiate the material in reactors.

Unirradiated Plutonium from Civil Reactors, end 2002

From the end of 1997 to the end of 2002, the world’s stock of civil unirradiated plutonium produced in civil programs grew at the rate of about 10 tonnes per year. During this period, about 20 tonnes per year of plutonium were separated worldwide from commercial spent fuel, and roughly 10 tonnes per year of plutonium were fabricated into MOX fuel for use almost exclusively in LWRs.

Table 1 shows that about 235 tonnes of civil separated plutonium were held and owned by 14 countries at the end of 2002, the last year for which detailed country-specific information is available. Most of the figures have come from official public declarations that nine countries annually make to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).1 Several of the entries in table 1, however, are estimates, because some official declarations are incomplete or ambiguous. In addition, India, Italy, Netherlands, and Spain have not made declarations of their separated plutonium inventories to the IAEA or the public.

Table 1 shows that the largest inventories are in the nuclear weapon states. However, Germany and Japan also possess large stocks.

The quantity for the United States in table 1 includes only the amount of plutonium that originated from civil reactors. The total quantity of unirradiated plutonium declared by the United States is 45 tonnes, almost all of which was produced in its military production reactors and declared excess to military needs. The full value is included in tables 5 and 6, and its estimated rate of disposition is discussed later in this report and summarized in tables 4 and 5.

Most INFCIRC/549 declarations for stocks at the end of 2003 were not available from the IAEA at publication time. Nonetheless, based on an assessment of the amount of spent fuel reprocessed and the amount of plutonium used in MOX fuel, about 240-245 tonnes of plutonium were in unirradiated forms at the end of 2003.

Future Stocks of Civil Separated Plutonium

The size of the unirradiated plutonium inventory depends on the amount of plutonium separated each year and the quantity of plutonium inserted into reactors in that year. Although plutonium separation continues, often with little justification other than inertia, the main reason for such a large and growing stock of unirradiated plutonium is that too little plutonium is being irradiated or otherwise disposed.

Over the next several years, the total amount of unirradiated plutonium is expected to continue growing. Within about five years, however, the total amount may start to decrease. This assessment is based on industry and government plans for plutonium separation and recycling.

Figure 1 is a projection of the inventory of unirradiated plutonium through 2020 based on these plans. As can be seen in the figure, the peak of about 260 tonnes of separated plutonium is projected to be reached about 2010, the inventory decreases to about 225 in 2015, and then it further decreases to about 180 tonnes in 2020.

The major assumptions involved in making this projection are:

    France reprocesses its own spent fuel at a rate of 800-850 tonnes per year and recycles the resulting plutonium into its LWRS. Recycling at this rate will require France to produce about 100 tonnes of MOX fuel per year at its MELOX plant. France’s foreign reprocessing contracts are finished by 2010 and are not renewed. Britain ends reprocessing around 2010 and starts commercial operation of its Sellafield MOX plant (SMP) in 2005, reaching about 60 percent of full capacity to make MOX fuel for its foreign reprocessing clients, particularly Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland. Japan starts commercial operations at its Rokkasho reprocessing plant in 2007 and its large-scale MOX plant in 2010, one year later than currently scheduled. France’s MELOX plant and Belgium’s MOX fabrication plant make MOX fuel for Belgium, Germany, Japan, and Switzerland, and the MOX fuel is inserted into reactors without significant delays. Plutonium concentration in MOX fuel increases over time.

This projection has uncertainties. To understand the nature of the uncertainties, a comparison can be made to a similar projection done by the author about five years ago (see ‘Separated Civil Plutonium Inventories, Current and Future Directions’, June 2000, on ISIS web site). That projection, based on industry and government plans from the late 1990s, estimated that the amount of separated plutonium would increase to about 225 tonnes in 2004, drop to about 190 tonnes by 2010, and reach 150 tonnes by 2015.

The reason that the current estimate projects higher global plutonium inventories during the next five years is mainly because SMP was unable to commence commercial operation as originally scheduled in about 2000 and the lack of Japanese orders to make MOX fuel in Europe have undermined incentives to increase further MOX fabrication capacity in France. Japanese utilities have been unable so far to start loading MOX fuel into their reactors due to intense local opposition to their plans, causing the utilities to delay their European MOX contracts. Continuing controversies in Britain and Japan could cause further delays in MOX fabrication and use during this period.

Less plutonium was separated in the last five years than expected, particularly because of problems at the British Thorp reprocessing plant. However, the decrease in reprocessing did not compensate for the reduction in MOX fabrication.

In the longer term, the reason the 2004 projection is greater than the 2000 projection is less MOX fuel fabrication in Europe after 2010. For example, few now believe that SMP will ever reach its full capacity of 120 tonnes of MOX fuel per year; instead, it will more likely have an output of about 50-70 tonnes of MOX fuel per year instead of 120 tonnes of MOX fuel per year as projected four years ago.

Political developments could accelerate the decline in plutonium inventories. Plutonium inventories could be lowered by operations halting at the Thorp reprocessing plant early or MOX fuel production increasing at SMP or MELOX. However, such actions are not currently expected.

This projection nonetheless demonstrates that the peak in the civil unirradiated plutonium inventory may occur by 2010, and then the inventory may slowly decrease. If history is a guide, these benchmarks may be further delayed. In almost any conceivable case, the international community must expect to face a large stock of civil separated plutonium for years.

Future Civil Separated Plutonium Stocks in Key Countries

An analysis of plutonium use must inevitably focus on individual countries and utilities that are loading or trying to load MOX fuel. This section evaluates future directions in 13 countries that have significant stocks of civil unirradiated plutonium. The US civil stock is not considered here, but instead in the next section on the disposition of excess plutonium.

Table 2 contains estimates of the size of plutonium inventories in key countries involved in commercial reprocessing and MOX use for the years 2010, 2015, and 2020. These estimates are based on current plans for reprocessing, MOX fabrication, and MOX fuel irradiation. Unlike the projection in figure 1, these estimates include information on specific reactors scheduled to use MOX.

The lower bounds in table 2 correspond roughly to the values in figure 1. The upper bounds in table 2 reflect the types of problems that have traditionally led the plutonium stocks to increase. These include the separation of more plutonium than can be used, delays in gaining approvals in loading MOX fuel, and the impact of unexpected events such as nuclear accidents or incidents that spill over and delay MOX programs.

Many of the estimates are ranges, reflecting uncertainties about MOX fabrication capacity and subsequent MOX use in a reactor. These considerations are discussed below or summarized in the footnotes to the table. In some cases, the projections are rather broad ranges that attempt to capture most of the possible futures for plutonium separation and use during the next 15 years.

A striking conclusion is that under a wide variety of reasonable assumptions, total civil separated plutonium stocks are not expected to decrease significantly in this period. Most countries listed in the table will have to store unirradiated plutonium either domestically or overseas for the foreseeable future.

Table 2 also shows that Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, and likely Sweden are embarked on a strategy of MOX use in LWRs that is expected to reduce their stocks of plutonium to as close to zero as feasible. These countries have all decided against further commercial reprocessing but have stocks of separated plutonium from earlier or on-going foreign reprocessing contracts.

After finishing using MOX fuel in their reactors, these countries will likely have some residual unirradiated plutonium stocks, but these stocks should in most cases be relatively small and can be expected to be disposed as waste. The one exception could be Germany which could end up with several tonnes of plutonium that need to be disposed as waste. One German utility may be unable to recycle about five tonnes of separated plutonium into its reactors, and other utilities may not be willing to recycle this plutonium. In addition, Germany has plutonium in various forms left from closed domestic plutonium reprocessing and MOX fabrication activities. Although Germany has decided to phase out its nuclear reactors, it is doing so on a schedule sufficient to permit recycling of its plutonium. However, if it experiences significant delays in being able to obtain or use MOX fuel, or is only able to obtain 30-40 tonnes of MOX per year, it could end up with a stock of separated plutonium that exceeds ten tonnes.

On the other hand, four countries that in total will soon possess about 100 tonnes of civil unirradiated plutonium have no firm plans to use MOX fuel or otherwise dispose of their civil plutonium stocks through 2020. These countries are Britain, Italy, Netherlands, and Spain. These countries must address the fate of their separated plutonium stocks. Britain in particular faces daunting choices about its large stock. But the other countries in this category will also need to find a way to dispose of their stocks.

Russia has no immediate plans to recycle its civil separated plutonium inventory, although it is committed to a long-term plan to use MOX in both LWRs and fast reactors. Russian government officials have stated plans to convert this separated plutonium into MOX fuel after it finishes converting 34 tonnes of excess military plutonium to MOX (see next section). Russia plans to blend 3-4 tonnes of this civil plutonium with this 34 tonnes of weapon-grade plutonium to disguise its isotopic composition. In Russia, the isotopic composition of weapon-grade plutonium is classified. As a result, during at least the next 15 years, Russia does not plan to significantly reduce its stock of plutonium produced in civil reactors, which will reach roughly 50 tonnes by 2010.

France, Japan, and India are embarked on programs to both separate more plutonium and use MOX fuel in their reactors. China has announced plans to implement a similar program.

France could face a large separated plutonium stock well into the future. France is bringing into balance its current annual separation of plutonium with its use in MOX. It is doing this by significantly increasing the fraction of fresh plutonium put into MOX fuel, in essence increasing the “burn-up” of the spent fuel. However, France does not appear to be taking aggressive steps to reduce its existing inventory of unirradiated plutonium. It could do so if it expanded the output of the MELOX plant and the number of reactors using MOX, or alternatively reduce the amount of plutonium it separates for several years as it reduces its existing inventory.

India is separating plutonium and plans to use MOX fuel in breeder reactors. The first prototype breeder is slated for operation in 2010, with larger breeders to follow. Whether India can meet this schedule remains unclear. In addition, its civil reprocessing plants have not worked as planned, raising questions whether India can produce enough separated plutonium for a breeder reactor program.

China plans to reprocess a limited amount of LWR spent fuel and recycle separated plutonium into its civil reactors. Its efforts to establish a 100 tonne per year reprocessing plant and associated MOX fuel fabrication plant have gone considerably slower than expected. In addition, its pilot breeder reactor, which is under construction, is slated, at least initially, to use HEU fuel imported from Russia.

Japan has experienced significant delays in starting to load MOX fuel in its LWRs. In addition, its fast breeder program has suffered several delays, and its prototype Monju fast reactor may not operate. As a result, projections of future MOX use remain highly uncertain, and models to generate such projections can vary significantly depending on the decisions Japanese utilities and the government make over the next few years.

The ranges in table 2 for Japan reflect the results of an assessment of several specific scenarios, based mainly on varying expected dates for MOX loading in individual Japanese LWRs and the amount of plutonium separated at the Rokkasho reprocessing plant. The ranges are wide, reflecting the rather large uncertainties in the start dates for MOX loadings and difficult choices facing Japanese utilities and government about the output of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant.

This assessment considered five scenarios, or cases, that bound projected inventories or possible futures.

    Case 1 is an optimistic case based on a schedule for loading reactors with MOX fuel and full operation of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant. The first reactor is loaded with MOX fuel in 2005 and the second one in 2006. The number of reactors loaded with MOX gradually increases over the next several years, reaching 16 reactors in 2010 and 18 reactors in 2012 including the all plutonium-core Ohma reactor. The maximum amount of plutonium loaded each year is about 8 tonnes of plutonium. Case 2 involves a two-year delay in the Case 1 MOX loading schedule, where everything else is held constant. Case 3 involves a four-year delay in the Case 1 MOX loading schedule, where everything else is held constant. Case 4 uses the case 1 MOX loading schedule supplemented by a policy to first use the separated plutonium stored in Europe. MOX fuel would be made in Europe and shipped back for use before any domestically separated plutonium was used. After all the overseas reprocessing contracts are completed, the quantity of overseas plutonium in total is expected to reach almost 50 tonnes. Because the licensing limit on the amount of unirradiated plutonium that can be stored at Rokkasho is 30 tonnes, this option is modeled by limiting reprocessing at Rokkasho to about 2 tonnes of plutonium per year for about seven years. For this case to be realized, Japan would need to fabricate about 60-100 tonnes of MOX fuel per year from the plutonium stored in Europe. This capacity may not be available in Europe if the SMP does not operate, requiring some of the separated plutonium to be shipped to Japan for MOX fabrication. Case 5 is where no MOX is used, but the Rokkasho facility separates plutonium until it reaches its storage limit of 30 tonnes.

Table 3 summarizes the results of this assessment. The ranges in table 2 are drawn from the maximum and minimum values for a specific year.

The reason many of the plutonium estimates in cases 1, 2, and 3 remain relatively high is that the Rokkasho reprocessing plant is scheduled to produce separated plutonium at a rate of over seven tonnes a year by about 2010. Because only about 8 tonnes a year of plutonium are being loaded into reactors, the total inventory of plutonium changes little through 2020, even when the MOX loading schedules are delayed by several years. Interestingly, if no MOX is used in Japanese reactors, the total inventory through 2020 will be comparable to case 3, which has a four-year delay in MOX loading from the schedule established in case 1. The lower bound is defined by case 4, where the output of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant is limited for many years.

As case 4 demonstrates, if Japan decides to limit operations at the Rokkasho reprocessing plant, it can systematically reduce its inventory of separated plutonium. Senior Japanese utility officials have stated informally in interviews that such a practice will be Japanese utility practice. If implemented, this strategy could allow the Rokkasho reprocessing plant to operate albeit at a reduced throughput, permit extra time to build the Rokkasho MOX fabrication plant, and reduce Japan’s separated plutonium inventory dramatically.

Japan could pursue other measures to reduce its plutonium stock. It could load more reactors with MOX fuel, and it could increase the plutonium concentration in the MOX fuel. However, these measures are unlikely to reduce Japan’s separated plutonium inventory significantly during the next 15 years.

Excess Military Plutonium

Britain, Russia, and the United States have declared a portion of their defense plutonium stocks excess to their military requirements. Russia and the United States have each declared about 50 tonnes of plutonium excess, and Britain has declared 4.4 tonnes. In the future, Russia and the United States are expected to declare more excess plutonium.

In 2000, the United States and Russia each agreed to dispose of 34 tonnes of weapon-grade plutonium excess to defense requirements. Because Russia views the isotopic composition of its weapons-grade plutonium as classified, it plans to blend the weapon-grade plutonium with about 3-4 tonnes of civil, reactor-grade plutonium.

More recently, each country has focused on building a MOX fabrication plant and select the specific reactors to use surplus plutonium. The United States has announced that it intends to start its MOX plant in 2009 and use the MOX fuel in about six LWRs . Russia is expected to follow a similar schedule and use the MOX in both LWRs and fast reactors. Because the programs are currently expected to proceed in “rough parallel,” a delay in one country can delay the other’s program.

United States.      The United States has declared 52.5 metric tons of plutonium as excess to its military requirements. The majority of this plutonium was formerly part of its nuclear weapons programs. About 7 tonnes of this plutonium is in spent fuel. Subtracting the plutonium in the spent fuel leaves an unirradiated inventory of about 45 tonnes, which is the amount declared by the United States in its INFCIRC/549 declarations to the IAEA. About 4-5 tonnes of this material is estimated to have originated in civil reactors, particularly British civil power reactors, and to have been transferred to the United States under a barter arrangement several decades ago. The rest of this plutonium originated in US plutonium production reactors operated by the Department of Energy and its predecessors.

In addition to the 34 tonnes scheduled for MOX fuel, another three tonnes are scheduled for dilution and disposal in a geological repository in New Mexico. Undecided is the fate of the other 7-8 tonnes of unirradiated plutonium which is non-weapon grade material. Original plans to immobilize up to 17 tonnes of the excess plutonium, including the non-weapon grade plutonium and about nine tonnes of weapon-grade plutonium, were suspended in early 2002. In addition, two tonnes of the original 34 tonnes that is impure and hard to process into plutonium oxide may be disposed as waste and substituted with weapon-grade plutonium declared that would be declared excess to defense requirements later.

The plutonium disposition program is focused on starting construction of the MOX fuel fabrication facility at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina. Construction of the MOX facility is currently expected to start in 2005, with MOX production starting in 2009. The latter date represents a two-year delay in the schedule established in early 2002, and further delays are possible, perhaps likely.

According to DOE’s early 2002 plans, disposition would occur over a roughly ten year period, where the goal is to turn almost 3.5 tonnes of plutonium each year into MOX and use it in six LWRs. This ambitious of a schedule may be impossible to meet. For example, only four LWRs have agreed to use MOX fuel. In addition, the maximum throughput of the MOX plant is 3.5 tonnes per year and may not be reached quickly after starting the facility.

Unknown is the fate of the MOX plant after it processes the 34 tonnes of plutonium. Under current plans, the MOX plant will not conduct any mission other than recycling excess military plutonium. However, will the facility process newly declared excess plutonium? Will it recycle excess fuel-grade plutonium?

Russia.      Less is known about Russia’s excess plutonium. Russia has declared 50 tonnes of plutonium excess to its defense requirements, although Russia has not declared any of it as part of its INFCIRC/549 declarations. The 34 tonnes of weapon-grade plutonium it has committed to use in MOX fuel is part of the 50 tonnes.

With Western financing, Russia plans to build a MOX fabrication plant at Seversk (Tomsk-7), Siberia that will make MOX fuel for LWRs and perhaps fast reactors. Unlike the United States, Russia wants to recycle its excess plutonium into VVER-1000s and the fast reactors, BN-600 and the pilot BOR-60.

Britain.      Britain has not stated what it intends to do with its excess plutonium, declared as 4.4 tonnes. This plutonium is included in the plutonium Britain declares under INFCIRC/549, and this plutonium is expected to be disposed in a similar manner as the rest of Britain’s declared plutonium.

Plutonium Disposition Rate.      Table 4 summarizes estimates of the amount and rate of MOX irradiation of 68 tonnes of US and Russian weapon-grade plutonium. The MOX plants are estimated to produce their first significant amounts of MOX between 2010 and 2012. The US program is estimated to be able to irradiate about 1-3.5 tonnes of plutonium per year, with the most likely value as two tonnes per year. The Russian program is estimated to irradiate about 1.5-2.5 tonnes per year. These estimates of the production and use of MOX fuel remain highly uncertain, but they show that disposition of this plutonium will likely take over 15 years.

Table 5 combines the information about the MOX disposition of the excess plutonium with the remainder of the excess plutonium. These projections could be affected by decisions to declare more plutonium excess or to dispose of more of the plutonium as waste.

Summary of Projected Civil Separated Plutonium Stocks

Table 6 projects civil separated plutonium inventories, including excess military plutonium, through 2020. As can be seen, the inventories remain large during this period.

1 The nine countries, which are the first nine entries of table 1, annually submit to the IAEA communications concerning their policies regarding the management of plutonium that contain their quantitative annual holdings of civil unirradiated plutonium. The annual communications are listed as addendums or additions to the original 1998 INFCIRC/549 document, Guidelines for the Management of Plutonium. These declarations are at For a summary of annual holdings, see ISIS report, ‘Guidelines for the Management of Plutonium (INFCIRC/549): Background and Declarations’, April 1, 2004. [back to the text]

Table 1: Unirradiated Civil Plutonium, end 2002, in tonnesa

A: Holdings in-country B: Holdings in other countries C: Tonnes of A that are foreign-owned D: Plutonium owned by a country (A+B-C)
Britain 90.8 0.9 20.9 70.8
France 79.9 less than 0.05 32.0 47.9
Belgium 3.4 0.4 ~2b 1.8b
Germany 11.1 ~14.5c not declared 25.6c
Japan 5.3 33.3 0 38.6
Switzerland 0.8 0-2d 0 0.8-2.8
Russia 37.2 0.6 0 37.8
China 0 0 0 0
United Statese 4-5 0 0 4-5
Indiaf ~1 0 0 1
Netherlandsg 0 2 0 2
Italyh 0? 2.3-2.4 0 2.3-2.4
Swedeni 0 0.833 0 0.83
Spainj 0.1? 0.1-1 0 0.2-1.1
TOTALk 234-235 233-238

(a) For the first nine countries in the table, the main sources of the information are the IAEA’s INFCIRC/549 declarations. The last five countries depend on a variety of sources of information. The totals of Columns A and D do not match exactly because the declarations are incomplete and several estimates are required to complete the table.

(b) Belgium did not declare this value in INFCIRC/549 because of commercial proprietary concerns. The estimate of 2 tonnes in column C is based on discussions with Belgian nuclear officials in the late 1990s and subsequent estimates of the amount of plutonium necessary to operate the Dessel MOX fuel fabrication plant at its typical annual MOX fuel throughputs.

(c) This estimate of 25.6 tonnes in column D is the sum of the declared value in column A and an estimate of the undeclared value in column B, or German separated plutonium holdings in other countries. This estimated value assumes that this plutonium is held in Britain, France or Belgium and that the vast bulk of Belgian, German, Japanese, Swiss, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, and Swedish holdings outside of their countries (Column B) is equal to the amount of plutonium in Britain, France and Belgium that is foreign-owned (column C). As a result, the value in column B is estimated at 13-16 tonnes, with a central estimate of 14.5 tonnes.

(d) Three tonnes of plutonium in spent fuel or in separated form are located at foreign reprocessing plants, according to Switzerland’s declaration to the IAEA. At least one tonne of this plutonium is estimated to remain in spent fuel, based on 2001 reprocessing schedules for Thorp and La Hague.

(e) Estimate of the amount of unirradiated plutonium originally produced in civil reactors is 4 to 5 tonnes, the bulk of which was produced in British civil reactors and exported to the United States several decades ago. This is part of the 52.5 tonnes declared excess by the United States. Of this 52.5 tonnes, the United States has declared in INFCIR/549 that 45 tonnes are in unirradiated or separated forms.

(f) India does not declare its civil plutonium stock to the IAEA or the public. Estimates of the amount of plutonium India has separated from civil reactors are complicated because of Indian government secrecy about many of its nuclear activities related to reprocessing. The estimate in this table draws on available information, particularly the difficulty India has had getting its two main civil reprocessing plants, “Prefre” and “Kalpakkam,” to operate at anywhere near their nominal outputs. Because of the shortage of information, the estimate in this table remains highly uncertain.

(g) As of the end of 1997, the Netherlands had about 3.6 tonnes of plutonium separated or scheduled for separation from power reactor fuel, from Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Tweede kamer, vergaderjaar 1996-1997, 25422, nr 1. As of the end of 2002, about 1.2 tonnes of plutonium in spent fuel remained to be separated. In addition, the Netherlands earlier sold about 200 kg of separated plutonium to Italy and other countries, and it assigned 140 kg of separated plutonium to the Superphenix reactor, where the plutonium was irradiated.

(h) Italy may have a small in-country stock of a few hundred kilograms of separated plutonium. Italy has unirradiated plutonium stored in Britain and France. The plutonium in Britain resulted from reprocessing contracts at the Thorp plant. The plutonium in France is in the form of unirradiated Superphenix fuel.

(i) Sweden publicly declares its separated plutonium stocks, see for example Swedish Nuclear Power Inspectorate (SKI), Granskningspromemoria 99:30, 199-07-01. Dnr 8.26-981480.

(j) Spain contracted to have 154 tonnes of spent fuel reprocessed at Thorp. It is uncertain whether all this spent fuel was reprocessed by the end of 2002.

(k) Totals rounded.

Table 2: Separated Civil Plutonium Inventories and Projected Inventories, in tonnes

  Separated Civil Plutonium Owned by a Country, end of 2002a Separated Civil Plutonium Owned by a Country, 2010 Central estimate or median, (uncertainty range) Separated Civil Plutonium Owned by a Country, 2015 Central estimate or median, (uncertainty range) Separated Civil Plutonium Owned by a Country, 2020 Central estimate or median, (uncertainty range)
Countries with firm plans to use civil MOX
Belgiumb France Germany Indiae Japan Swedeng Switzerlandh China 1.8 47.9 26 ~1 38.6 0.83 0.8-2.8 0 0 45 (40-50)c 29 (23-34)d ~1 50 (40-60)f 0? 0? 0? 0 42 (35-50)c 17 (8-25)d ~1 50 (20-80)f 0 0 ? 0 38 (25-50)c 5 (0-16)d ~1 40 (15-80)f 0 0 ?
Countries without firm plans to use civil MOX through 2020i
Britainj Italy Netherlands Spain Russia 70.8 0.5-1 2 0.2-1 37.8 90 1.0 3 1 50k 90 1.0 3 1 50k 90 1.0 3 1 50k
Countries with plans to dispose of excess military plutonium which includes some civil plutonium, see table 4 and text
Total (rounded) 230 270 (250-290) 250 (210-300) 230 (190-290)

(a) Source of this column is table 1. The United States is not included, but see table 4.

(b) Belgium has stopped reprocessing its spent fuel but maintained the ability to recycle plutonium in MOX fuel. Thus, it is expected to recycle its separated plutonium stocks into its reactors by the end of 2010. Despite the zero in the columns, Belgium may retain small stocks of separated plutonium, which are viewed here as less than a few hundred kilograms of unirradiated plutonium. This plutonium could be at research facilities or old fuel cycle facilities and will likely be disposed as waste.

(c) The ranges for France are derived from public statements by Cogema and French government officials. France’s separation and recycling policies are relatively well-defined and credible indicators of future performance. The projection summarized in this table assumes that France will continue to reprocess about 800-850 tonnes of spent fuel per year and load about 90-110 tonnes of MOX fuel per year into its reactors. Starting after 2005, the MOX fuel is expected to contain 8.65 percent plutonium. The values in the table are the median and the 5th and 95th percentiles which are calculated using the forecasting software Crystal Ball. This software allows a more systematic and defensible uncertainty analysis. If France loads more of its reactors with MOX fuel, it will reduce its separated plutonium inventory more than projected above. However, such a strategy does not currently appear likely based on available information.

(d) The estimates for Germany reflect uncertainties in amounts of plutonium separated and the rate of MOX use. About 20-22 tonnes of separated plutonium are expected to be separated at Thorp and La Hague from the end of 2002 through 2010, when reprocessing of German spent fuel is scheduled to end. Thus, including Germany’s end of 2002 inventory, it needs to dispose of a total of about 45-49 tonnes of separated plutonium. Germany has up to 12 reactors which can be loaded with MOX fuel; thus, it has sufficient capacity to reduce its separated plutonium to zero by 2020. In the estimate, Germany is assumed to obtain between 35 and 60 tonnes of MOX fuel each year through 2020. This rate requires Germany to obtain MOX fuel from Belgium, France, and Britain. A potential constraint is that Germany and Japan will compete for the same MOX capacity in Europe. If SMP does not operate, Germany may have difficulty obtaining over 40 tonnes of MOX fuel per year, if Japan is also seeking MOX fuel in Europe as expected. The values in the table are the median and the 5th and 95th percentiles which are calculated using the Crystal Ball.

(e) India has ambitious plans to separate plutonium and use the plutonium in breeder reactors, the first of which is scheduled for operation in 2010. This first breeder would need about 2 tonnes of plutonium for its initial core and have a refueling requirement of several hundred kilograms of plutonium each year. Whether India can build the breeder on schedule and separate enough plutonium is doubtful based on the past performance of its reprocessing plants and breeder research program. The estimates in this table are crude and essentially extrapolations from a limited set of data.

(f) These ranges reflect the uncertain timing of Japan’s use of MOX in reactors and the amount of plutonium it plans to separate in the Rokkasho reprocessing plant. If Japan implements its MOX use plan on schedule, it will load 16-18 reactors with MOX fuel by 2010. The range in the estimates in the table reflects five scenarios that are detailed in the text. The lower bound reflects a decision to reduce output from the Rokkasho reprocessing plant to about 2 tonnes of plutonium per year until almost all the Japanese plutonium stored in Europe is put into reactors, about 7 years in the scenario considered here. The maximum value corresponds to a delay in the start of MOX loading until 2009 and then a gradual buildup of MOX use in 18 reactors and full-scale operation of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant.

(g) The Swedish utility that owns the plutonium has contracted with SMP to make MOX fuel from its plutonium stock by 2005. A final approval to use the MOX in its reactor has not been given.

(h) Switzerland has been separating and recycling plutonium for many years. It has a decreasing supply of separated plutonium and has sufficient reactors to use MOX fuel that it has contracted to be fabricated elsewhere in Europe. If SMP does not operate, Switzerland may have difficulty recycling all its plutonium slated for separation at the Thorp plant by 2010.

(i) The following countries do not currently have any firm plans to use MOX fuel or otherwise dispose of their stocks of unirradiated plutonium through 2020. In the past, some countries have considered selling their stock of plutonium, but they do not appear to have any buyers currently. Although Russia has stated it plans to recycle its civil plutonium as MOX, it has not established any firm schedules to do so through 2020.

(j) Because of cutbacks in the British nuclear reactor programs, including less AGR spent fuel being committed to reprocessing, less British plutonium is expected to be separated in the future.

(k) This estimate assumes that Russia will halt reprocessing of LWR spent fuel in 2010. A small quantity of this plutonium is scheduled for blending with excess military weapon-grade plutonium. This reduction is not taken in this table, because the total amount of civil plutonium separated is very uncertain. For example, Russia may continue separating civil plutonium after 2010.

Table 3: Projected Japanese Plutonium Inventories, in tonnes*

Cases Case 1-Optimistic Case 2-Two-year Delay Case 3-Four-year Delay Case 4-European-Stored Plutonium First Case 5-No MOX Use       2010 51 60 62 42 63       2015 52 67 81 18 77       2020 48 65 81 14 77

Notes *The cases are defined in the text. In table 2, these estimates are rounded. They are not rounded here to show smaller trends in their magnitude that rounding would eliminate.

Table 4: Current and Projected U.S. and Russian Stocks of Excess Unirradiated Plutonium Subject to MOX Disposition, in tonnes*

Country Russia United States       2010 34 34       2015 26 (23-28) 25 (21-29)       2020 16 (11-20) 15 (7-22)       2025 6 (0-12) 5 (0-15)       2030 0 (0-5) 0 (0-8)

Notes *The estimates for 2015 and 2020 are the median and the range (in parentheses) created by the 5th and 95th percentile is the estimate of the disposition of 34 tonnes of weapon-grade plutonium. These estimates are calculated using the forecasting software Crystal Ball, which allows a more systematic and defensible uncertainty analysis. The lower values in the ranges for 2025 and 2030 are arbitrarily set at 0 for the estimate of the disposition of 34 tonnes of plutonium, becuase the 5th percentile is negative in the calculation. In 2030, the median in the calculation is also negative and is set at zero.

Table 5: Current Stocks of Excess US and Russian Unirradiated Military Plutonium, Reflecting MOX and Other Firm Disposition Decisions, central estimates, in tonnes*

Country Russia United States Total       2010 50 45 95       2015 42 36 78       2020 32 23** 55       2025 22 13 35       2030 16 8 24

Notes * Median values from table 4 are used as the basis for these estimates. ** In 2020, three tonnes of U.S. excess plutonium are projected to be disposed in the WIPP facility and thus removed from the excess stock (see text).

Table 6: Civil Unirradiated Plutonium, from Civil Reactors and Declared Military Excess, in tonnes*

Origin Civil** US and Russian Excess*** Total (rounded)       2002 230 95 325       2010 270 (250-290) 95 365 (345-385)       2015 250 (210-300) 78 (71-84) 330 (280-380)       2020 230 (190-290) 55 (42-66) 285 (230-360)
  • The values in parentheses are the lower and upper bounds of each estimate, derived from the bounds in tables 2 and 4. ** Taken from table 2. This quantity includes British excess military plutonium and does not include civil US unirradiated plutonium. *** Derived from tables 4 and 5.

Figure 1: Projection of the Global Inventory of Civil Unirradiated Plutonium through 2020

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