THE UK government is set to announce a deal with the US where UK nuclear waste is shipped to the US in exchange for a form of waste uranium used in cancer diagnosis and treatment.
The deal is expected to see approximately 700 kg of enriched uranium removed from the Dounreay storage facility in northern Scotland – due to be closed by 2030, enabling the wider area to undergo decontamination – and transported by means undisclosed to the US. This will be the largest international transfer of highly enriched uranium (HEU) in history.
In return, the UK and the EU are expected to gain an undisclosed amount of a different type of used HEU which can be processed into medical isotopes for diagnosing and treating cancers via radiotherapy for thyroid cancer. The medical-use HEU will be transferred to the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) in France, and will be exported back to the UK and other EU hospitals after processing.
The government says the full details will be announced by UK Prime Minister David Cameron at the two-day 2016 nuclear security summit which starts today in Washington DC, US. Cameron is scheduled to make his delegation speech this evening.
Speaking ahead of the summit, Cameron said: 'This is a landmark deal to turn nuclear material we no longer need into a cancer-fighting treatment that could potentially save many lives. It’s a win-win, innovative solution that shows what working together with our international partners can achieve.'
The deal has been criticised by environmental groups. Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “Only the nuclear industry could think it was a good idea to risk swapping large quantities of one of the most dangerous materials on the planet across the Atlantic.
“Nuclear waste should be dealt with as close to where it is produced as possible rather than risking transporting it in ships or planes. This waste will remain dangerous for tens of thousands of years. The consequences of an accident during transit would be horrific.'
Cameron is also expected to announce a £10m (US$14m) pledge for expertise in improving nuclear security worldwide. The joint scheme with the US will aim to strengthen nuclear sector cyber security by using simulation exercises to devise counter measures to cyber attacks. These will be made available to nuclear allies.
Japan, South Korea, Turkey and Argentina have expressed interest in being involved in workshops hosted by the UK to improve their nuclear cyber security.
A recent report by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) revealed as many as 20 nuclear counties were vulnerable to cyber terror attacks on nuclear infrastructure
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