Friday, February 18, 2005

Plutonium Missing From British Site The Middle East's Leading English Language Daily

Friday, 18, February, 2005 (09, Muharram, 1426)

Plutonium Missing From British Site
Agence France Presse —

LONDON, 18 February 2005 — A civilian nuclear fuels reprocessing plant in northwest England cannot account for some 30 kilograms of plutonium, enough for seven or eight nuclear bombs, a newspaper said yesterday.

The annual audit of nuclear material at all of Britain’s civil nuclear plants is expected to reveal that the quantity of plutonium at Sellafield was classified as “material unaccounted for” last year, The Times said.

Figures published by the British Nuclear Group (BNG) each year reveal an audit of nuclear material which is admitted and processed by the various plants around Britain.

A spokeswoman at Sellafield said: “This is material that is unaccounted for, and there is always a discrepancy between the physical inventory and the book inventory. There is no suggestion that any material has left the site.”

The Sellafield spokeswoman said the most likely reason for any shortfall was due to the complex measuring processes that are carried out. Asked if the 30 kilogram figure raised concern, she replied: “I wouldn’t say we would be alarmed by it, because we are only talking about a book figure here.”

But independent experts were worried about the disclosure, according to The Times. “They make this claim of an auditing problem but I would expect them to be overzealous in the current climate of fears about terrorism,” John Large, an independent nuclear consultant, was quoted as saying.

Frank Barnaby, a specialist in nuclear weapons, told The Times: “There will always be some material unaccounted for but this is a dramatic development.”