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Got plutonium? Bury it via Ars Technica

Plutonium can be used to make nuclear bombs. But it can also be recycled and used as a fuel in nuclear reactors. According to the authors of a Nature editorial, the UK—which has the largest civilian stockpile of plutonium, around 90 tons—should skip recycling and stockpiling plutonium and simply bury it. They argue that recycling is simply too expensive and risky.

World stockpiles hold about 500 tons of plutonium, which is an enough to make 100,000 nuclear weapons. That number goes up quite a bit when you account for the amount locked in nuclear waste—around 620 tons in the United States alone, a figure that increases by 23 tons every year.

Now, at first glance, the idea of just burying hundreds of tons of useful plutonium seems ridiculous. With all the world’s energy concerns, why wouldn’t we use it? As we covered in our recent feature on the future of nuclear energy in the US, plutonium can supplement traditional uranium fuel to power existing nuclear reactors. This combined fuel, made up of plutonium and depleted uranium, is called mixed oxide (MOX). Plutonium is even more effective in fast breeder reactors, but these haven’t been commercially successful, despite development work dating back to the 1950s.

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