Switzerland submitted its declaration of civilian plutonium stock as of the end of 2012 - INFCIRC/549/Add.4/17. According to the document, as of December 31, 2012 Switzerland had less than 50 kg of separated plutonium, which is described as "held elsewhere." This has not changed since the 2010 and 2011 Swiss declarations. The amount of plutonium in spent fuel also has not changed since 2011 - in the end of 2012 Switzerland was estimated to have 13 tonnes at reactor sites and 4 tonnes "held elsewhere". In addition, 1 tonne of the material is in spent fuel sent to reprocessing to other countries. The declaration does not specify whether all or some of this plutonium has been separated.
The United States is expected to ship 7 kg of HEU to Canada to support medical isotope production at the NRU reactor at Chalk River Laboratories. According to a report in Ottawa Citizen, NNSA requested a license for the shipment. According to the report, the United States has been supplying HEU for the NRU operations in 7 kg shipments that take place every 12 months. The most recent license, for shipment of 7.5 kg of HEU (No. XSNM3726), was issued by NRC in October 2012. The use of HEU at Chalk River is expected to stop by 31 October 2016, when the current NRU operating license expires.
While the NRU reactor is using LEU fuel, highly enriched uranium is used in targets to produce Mo-99. In 2010, the United States and Canada agreed to return irradiated HEU to the United States. The first shipment reportedly took place in 2010.
USEC company announced today that it will cease enrichment operations at its gaseous diffusion plant in Paducah. The plant, which is leased by USEC from the U.S. Department of Energy, is the last commercial gaseous diffusion enrichment facility in the world and the only U.S.-owned commercial enrichment plant in the United States. The company announced that it will stop enrichment "over the next month."
Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority is expected to indefinitely suspend operations of the Monju fast breeder reactor due to concerns about safety and violations of inspection procedures. The reactor will not be allowed to restart unless its operator, Japan Atomic Energy Agency, conducts a comprehensive review of its safety management system and overhauls the equipment inspection program.
The Monju reactor was most recently shut down after an accident in August 2010. It was expected to begin operations in March 2014, but it will be unable to do so as a result of the NRA actions. Also, Japan was reported considering closing the reactor down entirely.
Areva and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) "signed a letter of intent to build a used fuel treatment and recycling facility in China," according to a press-release by Areva. The facility will have the capacity to reprocess 800 tonnes of spent fuel of Chinese power reactors a year. According to Areva representatives, The agreement appears to include construction of a MOX fuel fabrication facility that would "integrate some of the elements present at Melox" and use "certain elements in terms of processing uranil nitrate that can be fount at the Pierrelatte site."
China was seeking access to the French reprocessing technology as part of the arrangement that involves construction of French power reactors in China. In 2009, France offered to supply a reprocessing facility, but the two sides apparently had disagreements about the price as well as restrictions on the use of technology that France wanted to include in the contract. It is not clear if the two sides managed to successfully address all these disagreements.
In 2010, Belgium and China reached an agreement to provide China with MOX fuel fabrication technology. That agreement also involved China National Nuclear Corporation.
Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority put on hold the plan to start operations of the reprocessing plant in Rokkasho. According to an editorial published in Asahi Shimbun, NRA has decided not to carry pre-operation tests of the plant until it approves new safety standard, which it is expected to do in December 2013. Accordingly, the plant will not be able to begin operations before at least 2014.
This would be another delay for the Rokkasho plant after a malfunction of a furnace forced the operator of the plant, Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd (JNFL), to postpone test runs in January 2012. The test runs reportedly resumed in June 2012.
At the 2013 NPT Prepcom in Geneva, IPFM released a report, Increasing Transparency of Nuclear-warhead and Fissile-material Stocks as a Step toward Disarmament, laying out a set of options for how NPT nuclear-weapon states could fulfill their transparency commitments through a series of successively more detailed public declarations of the numbers and deployment status of their nuclear warheads and of their inventories, production, and disposition histories of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium, the key ingredients in nuclear weapons.
The report is available at the IPFM library
The presentation is available as a pdf file.
The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change announced a series of plutonium title swaps that will increase the amount of UK owned separated plutonium. However, these being title swaps, no physical transfer of material will take place. According to the official statement, DECC has agreed to the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority:
- Participating in a series of swaps of plutonium material which will result in the NDA taking ownership of around 750 kg of plutonium stored in the UK, previously owned by certain German utilities.
- Facilitating a swap of plutonium ownership between Japanese and German utilities which will result in a decrease of about 650 kg of German owned plutonium in the UK and an equivalent increase in Japanese owned plutonium in the UK.
- Taking ownership to around 1850 kg plutonium that was originally allocated to repay plutonium loans (to France) in relation to historic MOX fuel subcontracts.
- Taking ownership of around 350 kg of material previously owned by a Dutch Utility.
According to the UK INFCIRC/549 declaration to IAEA, as of 31 December 2011, the United Kingdom had 118.2 tonnes of separated plutonium on its territory. Of this amount, 90.3 tonnes were owned by the UK and 27.9 tonnes by foreign bodies. In July 2012, the United Kingdom and Germany agreed to a title swap that resulted in transfer of ownership of about 4 tonnes of German-owned plutonium to the UK ownership, increasing the amount of UK-owned plutonium to 94.3 tonnes. As a result of the April 2013 transactions, the amount of UK owned plutonium stored in the United Kingdom will increase by another 2.95 tonnes to reach 97.25 tonnes. Correspondingly, the amount of foreign-owned plutonium will decrease to 20.95 tonnes.
It appears that after this title swap there will be no more German separated plutonium in the United Kingdom. The amount of plutonium belogning to Japan will increase from 17.028 tonnes, reported by Japan as of 31 December 2011, to 17.678 kg.
U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration announced today that it completed removal of all HEU from Czech Republic. The shipment included 68 kg of HEU, apparently in spent fuel of the LVR-15 reactor at the Research Centre Řež of the Nuclear Research Institute. According to the NNSA photo account of the shipment, the cask with spent fuel left Řež on 22 March 2013 and arrived in Gdansk, Poland on 24 March 2013. Containers with the casks were loaded in the ship Mikhail Dudin that arrived in Murmansk several days ago. The spent fuel will be transported to the Mayak plant. The reactor reportedly used IRT-2M fuel assemblies with uranium enriched to 36% U-235.
The LVR-15 reactor has been converted to LEU, although it reportedly uses HEU targets to produce medical isotopes. Nevertheless, the amount of HEU in this process is very small, so Czech Republic could be added to the list of countries from which HEU has been removed. According to NNSA, "the Czech Republic becomes the tenth country from which all HEU has been removed since President Obama announced in Prague an international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world."
UPDATE: According to Bellona, previous shipments of HEU from Czech Republic included 80 kg of spent fuel of the LVR-15 reactor in 2007, and three shipments of fresh fuel: 6 kg in 2004, 14 kg in 2005, and 12.2 kg in 2010. Also, in 2006 Russia removed from Czech Republic 0.2 kg of plutonium. LEU fuel for the LVR-15 reactor was supplied by TVEL in March 2011.
According to a report by Bellona, a shipment of spent research reactor fuel arrived in Murmansk from
Poland Czech Republic. The ship that delivered by a cargo ship Mikhail Dudin. The shipment was apparently conducted with assistance of the GTRI program. The fuel will be sent to the Mayak plant.
UPDATE 04/05/2013: The original report stated that the fuel arrived from Poland. This was incorrect - the origin of the fuel was Czech Republic. NNSA announced today that the shipment included 68 kg of HEU fuel from the reactor in Rez. The shipment is described in a separate entry.