The government wants to burn the country's huge stockpile of waste plutonium into mixed-oxide fuel (MOX) as part of a long-term nuclear strategy, it said on Thursday following a consultation that rejected other options.
The world's largest civilian stockpile of used plutonium -- stored at the Sellafield nuclear site in Cumbria -- would be converted into MOX fuel for possible use in a new generation of thermal light water reactors, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said.
But ministers stopped short of recommending that a new MOX plant be built to convert the radioactive elements.
Only when the government is confident that its preferred option could be implemented safely and securely, that is affordable, deliverable, and offers value for money, will it be in a position to proceed with a new MOX plant, energy minister Charles Hendry told parliament.
As a next step the government will examine the commercial feasibility of building a plant, Hendry said.
The recommendation to use MOX comes a few months after the government-owned Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA)announced it would close Britain's only MOX plant at Sellafield.
Loss of Japanese business following the Fukushima nuclear disaster made the plant commercially impractical.
In an apparent about-face, Hendry also set out plans to convert foreign-owned plutonium stockpiles stored in the UK at a new MOX plant, subject to commercial discussions.
France already uses MOX fuel in most of its 900 megawatt nuclear reactors, which make up around half of its 58-reactor total.
According to a Royal Society report in October, the stockpile costs 2 billion pounds to manage each year, undermines Britain's credibility in non-proliferation debates and poses a security risk.
(Reporting by Oleg Vukmanovic)