WASHINGTON (March 4, 2014) – The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) commended the Department of Energy (DOE) for planning to put the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina on “cold standby” while it determines an alternative way to dispose of surplus plutonium from nuclear weapons programs.
The MOX program would have used the plutonium to produce fuel for commercial nuclear reactors. UCS has long been concerned about the MOX program’s significant security and safety risks, in addition to its massive cost, now estimated at $30 billion.
“Converting this plutonium to a form that would be harder to steal or reuse in nuclear weapons is an essential long-term goal,” said Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist in the UCS Global Security Program. “But the MOX strategy would have greatly increased near-term risks by making it easier for terrorists to steal plutonium during processing, transport or storage at reactors.”
In addition, Lyman said using plutonium-based fuel in nuclear reactors would increase the risk of a serious nuclear reactor accident.
“The DOE has already wasted billions on this risky project. It’s time to pursue a cheaper and safer alternative,” said Lyman, a physicist. “Congress should follow the administration’s lead and terminate this ill-advised program.”