UK-US nuclear waste deal to help fight cancer

UK Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to unveil a nuclear waste deal to help fight cancer at an international summit in Washington on March 31, 2016.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to unveil a nuclear waste deal to help fight cancer at an international summit in Washington on March 31, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

LONDON (AFP) - Britain will team up with the United States and European partners to exchange its nuclear waste for material to be used in the fight against cancer, Prime Minister David Cameron will announce on Thursday (March 31).

The British leader is expected to unveil the plan at a two-day international summit in Washington, beginning on Thursday, aimed at ensuring that nuclear material in the world's roughly 1,000 atomic facilities is secured.

The deal will see Britain send waste from nuclear facilities in Scotland for processing in US reactors in the "largest-ever movement of highly-enriched uranium out of the UK", according to a British government source.

In exchange, the US will send uranium for use in reactors in the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom).

"The United States is going to provide highly-enriched uranium in a different form to Euratom for use in European reactors," said the source.

"They can produce medical isotopes that are used in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions including thyroid cancer." The finished product will be distributed for use around Europe.

"It is an opportunity for the UK, the US and Europe to show how countries can work together on dealing with nuclear waste. It's an opportunity to show some leadership to the rest of the world," said the source.

Mr Cameron will also reveal plans to tackle cybersecurity and to test the ability of nuclear sites and power plants to withstand cyberattacks, according to Downing Street.

He was expected to announce a joint exercise with the US to assess how their civil nuclear sectors would deal with a cyberattack, and a £10 million (S$19.4 million) investment to improve protection standards worldwide.

US President Barack Obama will host the summit, following similar gatherings in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

The meetings focus on preventing criminals from accessing stockpiles of radioactive materials, reducing highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium, enhancing the detection of smuggling, and cybersecurity.