Shutter mixed-oxide plant

Making mixed oxide nuclear reactor fuel was begun as one of several ways to dispose of excess nuclear-weapons-grade plutonium, its continuing existence being a serious threat to us and to the world. MOX would be used as a commercial nuclear reactor fuel, and the plan was part of a cooperative effort with Russia. “Swords into plowshares.”

However, its construction cost has ballooned at least threefold, so it is likely now to be far too expensive for commercial nuclear reactor operators to buy without subsidy. That means a continuing waste of money as we operate the plant at Savannah River Site.

The MOX facilities were sized to have less than half the capacity for the job at that time. We should assume the reasoning for the small size was to demonstrate its feasibility. As the size of our nuclear arsenal continues to shrink and more plutonium needs to be disposed of, our MOX plant would be able to process a smaller and smaller fraction of it, already not much over a fifth. With what we already know, can’t we already conclude that a second, much larger MOX plant is not in the cards? If so, a different method will be needed and will likely be here at SRS, at far lower cost. With little doubt, we know that MOX has lost the bet, so why not end its construction?

It often is argued that we are obligated to continue with MOX to honor our agreement with Russia. However, are they even pursuing their own MOX commitment? Whatever, it is a flimsy argument, considering the money we are throwing at it.



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