The NFRC was established in 2002 to promote the construction and operation of nuclear reprocessing facilities. NFRC promotes reprocessing commercial spent nuclear fuel that is generated by commercial nuclear power plants.

Reprocessing dramatically reduces the amount of high-level radioactive waste that would have to be stored in a geologic repository. We also support reprocessing plutonium and highly enriched uranium from nuclear warheads into fuel for use in commercial nuclear power plants.

Friday, August 13, 2010

DOE Seeks Clients for Mixed Oxide (MOX) Nuclear Fuel

The effort by the U.S. Energy Department (DOE) to find clients willing to use mixed oxide reactor fuel to be produced at Savannah River Site has stalled. So DOE is exploring new strategies to market the fuel. The $4.86 billion MOX plant is designed to transform 34 metric tons of plutonium from dismantled bombs into commercial fuel suitable for nuclear power plants. Although the plant has been under construction three years, with projected completion in 2016, commercial utilities have shown little interest in using the fuel.

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)is engaging in efforts to market MOX that includes talks with major fuel manufacturers and suppliers. These suppliers include AREVA, Westinghouse and Global Nuclear Fuels -- the main fabricators who supply fuel to utilities -- and NNSA is working with each of them to see if they can supply MOX to them and they would market the fuels to their customers. Having the fuel available through traditional vendors could help make its use more attractive to commercial reactor operators.

The MOX technology is part of the National Nuclear Security Administration's nonproliferation strategy in which weapons-grade materials are permanently eliminated to prevent exploitation by terrorists. It is also part of an agreement in which Russia will dispose of similar amounts of bomb-grade plutonium.

In 2007, Duke Power agreed to use the fuel in its reactors but dropped out of the program in 2009 after two years of testing. Currently, Tennessee Valley Authority, which agreed in February to test -- and possibly use -- MOX in five of its reactors, is the only potential client.
According to DOE, although it is the only current prospect, TVA and its reactors could theoretically use 80 to 100 percent of the MOX plant's eventual production. However, the search remains active to recruit a variety of clients.

Southern Nuclear, which operates Plant Vogtle and two other nuclear plants, will not use MOX. SCANA Corp., which operates the V.C. Summer Plant in South Carolina, doesn't want MOX either.

Further complicating the situation is the uncertainty of where the Energy Department will locate an important facility to dismantle and process plutonium "pits" from surplus warheads. The initial plan was to construct a freestanding Pit Disassembly & Conversion Facility adjacent to the MOX complex. An additional alternative in which existing buildings in the K Reactor area would house that process is also being studied. The ultimate site will house a plant where pits will be processed into a powdered oxide form for use in the MOX plant. (DailyMe, 8/12/2010)

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