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Pull the Plug on MOX!

Posted by Sibahle Magadla on July 3, 2013

On Monday, June 24, WAND and Georgia WAND hosted "Pull the Plutonium Pork - End Mox," a webinar discussing the Mixed Oxide (MOX) Plutonium Fuel Program.

Mixed oxide fuel, commonly referred to as MOX fuel, is nuclear fuel that contains more than one oxide. The fuel can be re-used for energy generation. Studies warn that commercial use of MOX fuel may actually increase the risk of nuclear proliferation. MOX use went underway in 1994.

The session kicked off with Tom Clements, Southeastern Nuclear Campaign Coordinator of ‘Friends of the Earth’, discussing the disposition of plutonium through its conversion to MOX fuel.

The United States of America declares 55 surplus metric tons of plutonium which will never go back to the use of nuclear weapons. Russia declares 34 surplus metric tons of plutonium. The disposal of US surplus plutonium via mixed oxide fuel (MOX):

  • Is currently far over budget and is the most expensive disposal option
  • Is an inefficient jobs program in South Carolina
  • Is an inefficient jobs program in South Carolina
  • Has no clients (commercial nuclear reactors) for MOX fuel
  • Results in more handling and processing of plutonium
  • Poses proliferation risks by introducing plutonium into commerce, which sends a potentially dangerous message internationally about the proper disposition  of plutonium.
  • Is linked to the reprocessing of commercially spent fuel and plutonium ‘breeder’ reactors (which make more plutonium) in Russia and the US

The US-Russia Plutonium Management & Disposition Agreement (PMDA) of 2000 (amended in 2010) outlines that both countries dispose of at least 34 metric tons of plutonium surplus each. The agreement concerns management & disposition of plutonium designated as no longer required for defense purposes and related co-operation. Clements stressed that this is just an agreement and not a treaty.

The Department of Energy (DoE) said to Congress that DoE administration is conducting an assessment of alternative plutonium disposition strategies and will identify options for 2014 and beyond. The FY2104 DOE budget request to Congress includes $478 million for plutonium disposition and $320 million for MOX plant construction. There are questions with regards to where this money should come from.

The MOX program’s current price tag exceeds $22 billion. Tom Clements said that alternatives to MOX must be vigorously pursued to prevent the waste of even more billions of dollars.

Alternatives to MOX include continued safe secure storage, disposal in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) which has legal and environmental challenges, can-in-caster to spent fuel repository, HIP waste form which is for final disposal, “off-spec” MOX pellets which are to be inserted into spent fuel assemblies for disposal

Amanda Hill Hanson from Georgia Wand Chapter gave an “Environmental Justice Issues” perspective to the MOX topic.

The Savannah River site is the 4th most polluted river in the US. The river is used for farming and residential well water. Issues that the river site faces:

  • Compound nuclear impact increases human and environmental burden
  • Legacy of institutional racism within site
  • Lack of sufficient environmental monitoring and information dissemination

MOX furthers the problems in this community; Contaminants released intoxicate the river. There are increased cancer rate and health issues in the area.

Georgia WAND is trying to improve monitoring and information dissemination and advocates protection for vulnerable populations at Savannah River site.

Katherine Fuchs, Program director for Alliance for Nuclear Accountability gave a view of MOX from Capitol Hill.

Money allocated for MOX is increasing and the Department of Energy should research how to reduce cost of MOX. Fuchs suggests stopping the funding of MOX and establishing safer and more efficient alternatives. She also encouraged people to take action by looking out for e-mail action alerts, engaging the media (local and national) on this topic, and meeting with members of Congress when possible.

The MOX program is a costly, dangerous, and unnecessary method to dispose of surplus plutonium.      

Comments

Dr Dienst (wncpsr.org) said ..

MOX "fuel" proving unuseable in nuclear reactors. There is glutinous oversupply of the byproduct plutonium. Time to STOP this INSANE dangerous project!!!

January 13, 2014
Dr Dienst (wncpsr.org) said ..

Mox fuel has been shown to be unuseable as fuel in nuclear reactors. There is a glutinous quantity of the byproduct plutonium. Time to STOP this INSANE project!!

January 13, 2014
Natasha said ..

the release of plutonium in the MOX mixture at Fukushima should be a case in point. Remember the half life of a quarter of a million years dooms the biosphere of this planet, particularly the northern hemisphere. …..

November 16, 2013
James Melloh said ..

Yet another way we are subsidizing the parasitic nuclear industry. Unfortunately we pay in far more than dollars.

July 9, 2013
Martha Jaegers said ..

this issue really should be made more public. I had never heard of MOX. It seems the social, environmental, and monetary costs are unsupportable.

July 9, 2013

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