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Answers to Questions about Funding MOX Project Budget

February 19, 2013

We applaud this editorial by Clint Wolfe in the Augusta Chronicle. It's a well reasoned and detailed statement that mirrors our own post last Friday. Clint is the executive director for Citizens for Nuclear Technology Awareness.

He begins with a descriptive summary:

A $6.8 billion mixed-oxide, or MOX, fuel plant is under construction at Savannah River Site. The fuel is a key part of a plutonium disposition agreement between the U.S. and Russia to eliminate 34 metric tons of plutonium each from their respective nuclear weapons stockpiles.

Mixing plutonium oxide with uranium oxide produces MOX fuel that can generate clean electricity in a nuclear power plant. The United States and Russia agreed to this technology after thorough evaluation of other methods of plutonium disposition. Every option would have cost billions of dollars to implement and cost hundreds of millions of dollars annually to provide surveillance, inspection, and security forever – all except one – MOX.

Use of plutonium in MOX fuel changes it in a way that makes it unattractive for nuclear weapons, so the plutonium is not just buried, immobilized or stored – it is eliminated from use in weapons.

Then he answers critics’ concerns, including claims from Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., beginning with safety:

The fuel is not dangerous. MOX has been used in more than 30 reactors worldwide for decades and more reactors are being planned to use it. The claim that the fuel is dangerous apparently is linked to paranoia concerning plutonium in general, and completely ignores the safe operating history of MOX fuel.

Next looking at the claim that there is a lack of customers for MOX Fuel:

“… this assertion is way too early to claim, and ignores the purpose of this project,which is to eliminate plutonium, not make money. Obviously, if the nation can realize some cost recovery that would be a bonus, but the real prize is the elimination of the plutonium both in the United States and Russia. There will be customers for the fuel in the long run even if the government uses it for its own purposes.”

And the issue of the budget and the larger picture of fiscal responsibility:

“… it is reckless and foolish to talk about terminating the program because of costs since the facility is more that 60 percent complete. It will cost a lot less to finish than to start over on another multibillion-dollar program that can’t really eliminate the plutonium threat the way that MOX can. Russia currently is ahead of us in progress toward eliminating their plutonium, but it has made it clear that it will not eliminate its stockpile until America is ready to do likewise. The programs are, therefore, inextricably linked.”

Do go read and share the entire article …