TVA will evaluate SRS MOX fuel

Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010 1:01 PM
Last updated 1:09 PM
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The Tennessee Valley Authority will evaluate mixed oxide fuel to be produced at the Savannah River Site as part of the U.S. Energy Department's program to dispose of surplus, weapons-grade plutonium from dismantled warheads.

According to an interagency agreement announced today between TVA and the National Nuclear Security Administration, the fuel-to be made at the $4.86 billion plant under construction at SRS-will be evaluated to gauge its suitability for use in TVA's Sequoyah and Browns Ferry nuclear reactors.

Previously, another power producer-Duke Energy-had signed an agreement to use MOX fuel, but the company disclosed in a Feb. 27, 2009, financial filing with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission that it allowed its contract to lapse. Duke officials have said the company remains interested, but no additional contracts have been announced.

The construction under way at SRS involves a 600,000-square-foot MOX complex scheduled to open in 2016. Its mission will involve blending 5 percent plutonium oxide with 95 percent uranium oxide to manufacture commercial reactor fuel.

Typical fuels are usually 100 percent uranium oxide.

Converting plutonium to spent fuel is part of the nation's non-proliferation effort and mirrors a similar program to dispose of Russian surplus weapon-grade plutonium.

President Obama's fiscal 2011 budget includes $2.7 billion for nonproliferation programs with a 47 percent increase for Fissile Materials Disposition-including the MOX project at SRS.

The budget also includes a $103.9 million increase for the Pit Disassembly and Conversion Facility, also at SRS.

Under the interagency agreement, TVA will perform work on nuclear core design, licensing, environmental and reactor modification assessments, and other related activities to evaluate the eventual use of MOX fuel in its reactors.

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Little Lamb
Little Lamb 02/25/10 - 02:47 pm
I thought TVA already

I thought TVA already evaluated MOX five or six years ago. I thought they burned some in one of the Watts Bar reactors. Anybody know the skinny?

SCEagle Eye
SCEagle Eye 02/25/10 - 02:54 pm
MOX with weapons-grade

MOX with weapons-grade plutonium has never been used, anywhere. A test of this MOX failed in a Duke reactor so TVA will have to repeat the test if they want an NRC license to use MOX. What a costly mess. Would be better to treat the plutonium as waste because no utility wants MOX and Uncle Sam's TVA reactors are the last resort of a problem-plagued big government program. TVA's Watts Bar produces tritium for nuclear weapons, another dog of a program case off onto TVA by DOE.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 02/25/10 - 03:22 pm
Thank you, EagleEye. Now

Thank you, EagleEye. Now that I read your post, it came back to me that Watts Bar was in a tritium production test for the DOE. I don't remember what problems Duke found, but perhaps the MOX fuel swells and deforms the rods more than standard uranium oxide does. They have to play around with it to get the mix right. I'd rather see the energy extracted from the plutonium than to simply bury it in the ground - - - or worse yet, to leave it in a pool of water with constant oversight for 10,000 years courtesy of the taxpayer.

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