Plutonium accounting falls short, DOE finds

From the EarlyWarning team: Plutonium accounting falls short, DOE finds
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One of the concerns that I have about the nuclear “renaissance” is about the ability to account for the amounts of plutonium which would be produced.  With a large amount of Pu even seemingly insubstantial losses can be compounded by the sheer volume of material into dangerous amounts. The normal fluctuations,  measurement errors, may be statistically “insignificant” but substantively important. The margins for larger numbers are themselves large numbers. Japan, for instance, has “about nine metric tons” of spent fuel currently. If they were so inclined- it might be possible to evade detection of diversion for military uses simply by hiding the ‘losses’ in the volume of material. This is not just a case of a need for a beefier IAEA if there is an increase in the number of reactors, it may require a level of accountability which will prove difficult -if not impossible to carry out in reality. It is fine to say that “We have never lost an ounce of gold from Fort Knox. We shouldn’t lose an ounce of highly enriched uranium.” But to the best of my knowledge we aren’t running our gold supply through any kind of reactors. Nuclear material that we are using is different. It is being used in industrial processes and there will be normal changes in the measured amounts. This could hide nefarious activity from even the most diligent accountant. This increased danger for proliferation should be weighed in the discussions about increased nuclear energy.

 

also IAEA has the coolest logo in the world.

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