WASHINGTON (May 23, 2017)—In today’s fiscal year 2018 budget release, the Trump administration proposed to shut down the troubled mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel project to dispose of excess plutonium from the U.S. nuclear weapons program. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has long called for canceling the program because it would make it easier for terrorists to gain access to fissile material that could be used to make a nuclear weapon.
Several independent reports commissioned by the Energy Department concluded that the cost to complete the MOX program at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina would be dramatically more than initial estimates, and that alternative approaches to disposing of the excess plutonium would be more affordable and less risky. Their conclusions were similar to those in a report UCS Senior Scientist Edwin Lyman published in January 2015. That report proposed a number of safer, cheaper alternatives, including the option of diluting the plutonium and disposing of it at the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) in New Mexico—just what the FY2018 administration budget recommends.
“The MOX fuel fabrication plant at the Savannah River Site is a money pit,” said Lyman. “Cancelling the facility and disposing of our excess plutonium by diluting it and shipping it to a permanent repository will save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars—and it will be safer and more secure to boot. This is a great deal by any measure.”