THE UK’s civil stockpile of separated plutonium is now over 100 tonnes, enough for the production of 17,000 nuclear bombs.
The stockpile has almost doubled in the last 10 years, showing that the end of the Cold War saw a massive expansion of nuclear weapon material, and weapons, and not the contraction expected by pacifists and others.
There are now thousands of new nuclear battlefield weapons in existence as well as bunker busting nuclear devices, plus weapons that can be fired from space.
The Royal Society warned yesterday that the potential consequences of a major security breach or accident involving the UK’s stockpile of separated plutonium are so severe that the Government should urgently develop and implement a strategy for its long term use or disposal .
This is the warning in a report published by the Royal Society yesterday.
Plutonium is highly toxic. It is the primary component in most nuclear weapons and could be made into a crude nuclear bomb by a well-informed and equipped terrorist group.
Professor Geoffrey Boulton, chair of the report’s working group, said: ‘The status quo of continuing to stockpile separated plutonium without any long term strategy for its use or disposal is not an acceptable option.
‘The Royal Society initially raised concerns about the security risks nine years ago and we have not seen any progress towards a management strategy.
‘Furthermore, the stockpile has grown whilst international nuclear proliferation and terrorist threats have increased.
"Just over 6kg of plutonium was used in the bomb which devastated Nagasaki and the UK has many thousands of times that amount. We must take measures to ensure that this very dangerous material does not fall into the wrong hands.’
The report recommends that a strategy to manage the UK’s separated plutonium must be considered as an integral part of the energy and radioactive waste policies that are currently being developed.