THE Daya Bay nuclear power station is negotiating with the mainland's nuclear body to send its highly radioactive used fuel by truck or rail to northwest China for recycling. The deal marks China's first moves into the dangerous job of nuclear reprocessing at a new plant run by the China National Nuclear Corporation in Lanzhou, Gansu province. It follows Japan's most serious nuclear accident at a similar uranium production plant last month. Daya Bay, which opened in 1994, has on-site storage capacity for 10 years and needs to find a replacement. But a question mark hangs over what will happen to the plutonium - some of which could be used in atomic bombs - that will also be extracted from the fuel. 'Daya Bay has been in negotiation with the China National Nuclear Corporation on the disposal of spent nuclear fuel from the [power station], and transportation has been part of the negotiation,' Guangdong Nuclear Power Joint Venture Company deputy secretarial manager Alfred Choy Hoe said. 'The negotiating parties have taken the year 2003 for the transfer of the first batch of spent fuel from [Daya Bay] as the basis of the negotiation, though there is some flexibility. 'The transportation is expected to be partly by rail and partly by road, although there are other options available,' he said. Anti-nuclear group Greenpeace's China chief Ho Wai-chi said travel by road was a serious concern. 'They will be travelling through very densely populated areas and it's a long way. There's always a danger of accidents.' He also questioned the security of transport measures if plutonium was included in the return trip. When uranium fuel burns in a nuclear reactor, highly radioactive by-products are made which then prevent further use of unspent uranium. During reprocessing, the radioactive fuel is dissolved in nitric acid to remove these by-products, which need permanent disposal. China has no disposal site. The uranium collected can be used in new rods to be returned to Daya Bay. But plutonium extracted elsewhere has posed a headache to governments as soaring stockpiles have become a potential terrorist target while no safe commercial reactor has been built to burn it. After radioactive leaks and failed attempts to build safe fast-breeder reactors that could use plutonium, the United States and other nations, such as Germany, closed down operations. Now only France, Britain and Japan reprocess fuel.