World Inventory of Plutonium and Highly Enriched Uranium, 1992

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Plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU) were first introduced fifty years ago. In the Manhattan project the amounts separated were measured in kilograms, enough for the first atomic bombs. Today there are about 1000 tons of plutonium and 1300 tons of HEU in existence, the result of the great expansion of nuclear weapon and nuclear power programmes in recent decades. Controlling and disposing of these vast quantities is now one of the most serious challenges facing the international community.

Despite the great significance of plutonium and HEU for international security and nuclear commerce, there are no international statistics on these materials. Information on them is generally classified in countries possessing or trying to acquire nuclear weapons, and holders of civil materials only give information to safeguards agencies on condition that it remains confidential. This book fills the gap. It provides for the first time a comprehensive and authoritative assessment of the amounts of plutonium and HEU in military and civilian programmes, country by country.

World Inventory of Plutonium and Highly Enriched Uranium 1992 is based on knowledge of how nuclear reactors, reprocessing and enrichment plants have been operated around the world. Step by step, it explains how civil and military nuclear programmes have been run, which technologies and facilities have been used, and what has happened to the materials produced by them. It details the huge amounts of plutonium and HEU that will be extracted from dismantled weapons as the United States and the former Soviet Union reduce their nuclear arsenals, and the equally large amounts of plutonium that will be separated from civil fuels in Britain, France, Japan and Russia if reprocessing plans are implemented. It also contains the most thorough examination yet of the efforts by Iraq, Israel, Pakistan, India and a few other countries to acquire the materials needed to build nuclear weapons. And throughout, the book points out the main uncertainties over the quantities and whereabouts of these vital materials.

The book ends by stressing the need to end the over-supply of civil plutonium and to develop plans for disposing of surplus stocks of both plutonium and HEU. Much of the plutonium will have to be treated as a waste, while the HEU can be diluted and used as nuclear fuel. It also calls on the international community to end the secrecy surrounding these materials. The United Nations should publish annual statistics on every country's holdings of plutonium and HEU, including materials in nuclear weapon states.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780198291534
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 4/8/1993
  • Series: A SIPRI Publication Series
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.31 (w) x 9.44 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Meet the Author

Institute for Science and International Security

Princeton University

University of Sussex

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Table of Contents

Abbreviations, acronyms and conventions
Pt. I Introduction
1 Reasons, aims and sources 3
II Four security contexts 3
III The need for greater transparency 4
IV The limits to accuracy 6
V The scope of the book 7
2 Characteristics of highly enriched uranium and plutonium and their production processes 9
II Highly enriched uranium 9
III Plutonium 14
Pt. II Military inventories in the nuclear weapon states
3 Inventories of military plutonium in the nuclear weapon states 25
II The production process 25
III Methods of estimating military plutonium inventories 28
IV The United States 31
V The former Soviet Union 36
VI The United Kingdom 41
VII France 44
VIII China 46
4 Weapon-grade uranium inventories in nuclear weapon states 47
II Overview of enrichment programmes 47
III The United States 48
IV The former Soviet Union 53
V China 60
VI The United Kingdom 63
VII France 66
Pt. III Principal civil inventories
5 Plutonium produced in power reactors 71
II The fuel cycle in civil reactor systems 72
III Fuelling strategy and fuel burn-up 74
IV A sketch of methods 76
V Discharges of spent fuel from civil reactors 79
6 Reprocessing programmes and plutonium arisings 84
I Reprocessing in the nuclear fuel cycle 84
II The evolution of fuel-cycle strategies 85
III A sketch of methods 89
IV Overview of power-reactor fuel reprocessing 89
V Commercial reprocessing programmes 91
VI Summary of past power- and fast-reactor fuel reprocessing 109
VII Projections of plutonium separation to 2010 113
7 Commercial and research and development uses of plutonium 117
II Fast-reactor fuel cycles 118
III Plutonium use in fast reactors 119
IV Past and projected plutonium consumption in fast reactors 119
V Plutonium use in thermal reactors 129
VI National programmes for thermal plutonium recycle 131
VII Summary of plutonium use in thermal reactors: past and projected 138
VIII Commercial and R&D plutonium use compared with quantities separated 140
8 Civil highly enriched uranium inventories 144
II Civil HEU suppliers 144
III Reactors using HEU fuels, 1992 145
IV Converting to low-enriched uranium fuels 145
V Reprocessing of HEU fuels 146
VI Civil HEU inventories 147
Pt. IV Material inventories and production capabilities in the threshold states
9 De facto nuclear weapon states: Israel, India and Pakistan 153
I Israel 153
II India 157
III Pakistan 162
10 Countries of concern: Iraq, North Korea, Iran and Algeria 168
I Iraq 168
II North Korea 173
III France 175
IV Algeria 177
11 Countries backing away from nuclear weapons: Argentina, Brazil, South Africa and Taiwan 179
II Argentina and Brazil 179
III South Africa 185
IV Taiwan 190
Pt. V Conclusions
12 Overview of present and future stocks of plutonium and highly enriched uranium 195
I Inventories at the end of 1990 195
II Types of inventory 197
III Location of inventories by NPT status 198
IV Material under international safeguards 200
V Possible future trends in plutonium and HEU inventories 203
13 Two policy issues 210
I The need for an international register of plutonium and HEU 210
II The management of plutonium and HEU surpluses 214
Appendix A. Enrichment technologies 219
Appendix B. Calculation of plutonium production in power reactors 222
Appendix C. Separation of plutonium from power reactor fuel at reprocessing plants 229
Appendix D. Research reactors (>1 MWth) using HEU fuel
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