Originally created 04/21/00

Duke shareholders veto MOX ban



Duke Energy stockholders voted down a proposal Thursday that would have barred the company from using a controversial nuclear-reactor fuel slated to be produced at Savannah River Site.

The measure opposing the use of mixed-oxide fuel garnered only 12,003,647 votes, or 3.75 percent of the company's voting shares, at Duke Energy's annual shareholders' meeting in Charlotte. More than 250 million votes were recorded against the proposal.

"It was a significant victory for the company," said Tom Shiel, a spokesman for Duke Power, a Duke Energy subsidiary.

Duke Power plans to use mixed-oxide, or MOX, fuel at its Catawba and McGuire nuclear-power plants near Charlotte. The fuel, to be produced in a proposed $500 million plant at SRS, would contain radioactive plutonium from dismantled U.S. nuclear weapons.

Another utility, Virginia Power, recently withdrew from a contract to use MOX fuel in its North Anna plant. Virginia Power executives said the MOX plan no longer fit the utility's business strategy.

The company's withdrawal left Duke Power as the sole utility involved with the MOX effort.

The MOX plan is a cornerstone of the U.S. government's effort to rid itself of about 55 tons of surplus plutonium, to ensure that it never again can be used in weapons.

Many nuclear activists oppose the MOX plan, saying it is too costly and too dangerous to use the fuel in commercial reactors not designed for it.

"Clearly, we're disappointed in the result," said Ed Lyman, scientific director for the Nuclear Control Institute, of Thursday's vote. Institute representatives attended the meeting.

"I think it's apparent that Duke Energy took this vote very seriously, and must have called in a lot of chips," Dr. Lyman said.

Reach Brandon Haddock at (706) 823-3409.