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Impact study extension offers closer look at MOX alternatives

Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013 2:00 PM
Last updated 6:33 PM
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Contractors will have an additional year to complete a key analysis that could affect the future of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s MOX program.

According to an Oct. 4 public notice, the Final Surplus Plutonium Disposition Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement’s new completion date will be Sept. 26, 2014.

The study by Mele Associates began in 2007, and its original completion date in 2012 was extended until Sept. 26, 2013.

The evaluation includes effects of the plan to convert plutonium from surplus warheads into mixed oxide fuel that can be used in commercial power reactors.

The fuel plant, under construction at Savannah River Site, is 60 percent complete, but its construction costs were revised this year from $4.9 billion to $7.7 billion, prompting the U.S. Department of Energy to “assess alternatives.”

Tom Clements, a MOX critic and the Southeastern nuclear campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth, said the extended deadline for the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement also gives the department more time to explore MOX alternatives.

“The same document that indicates further delays for the MOX Environmental Impact Statement also states that the DOE’s ‘assessment’ of plutonium disposition options, which was announced as part of the FY14 budget release in April 2013, will be delayed until mid-2014,” Clements said.

One cheaper alternative to MOX could involve disposing of the surplus plutonium as waste, he said.

“This could be done by packaging the plutonium with high level radioactive waste to create a theft-deterring radiation barrier and emplacing the waste in a secure geologic repository.”

In addition to adding 12 months to the contract, the project’s ceiling price was increased from $25,982,881 to $26,388,588.


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