Union of Concerned Scientists: MOX fuel program not worth risks, costs

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released a report this week that said a new study from the Department of Energy (DOE) indicates increased risks and costs in a plan to convert surplus plutonium into mixed-oxide fuel (MOX).

In the study, the DOE said it would be less risky and more cost effective to send approximately 34 metric tons of plutonium to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico rather than convert it into MOX fuel to be used in commercial power plants.

“The time for studies is now over,” Edwin Lyman, a UCS senior scientist, said. “Congress should stop obstructing the Energy Department from shutting down the MOX program and allow it to ramp up the down-blending program at the Savannah River Site. Otherwise, the government will continue to waste hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars every year.”

The UCS released a report in January that has been found to be consistent with the DOE report. In the January report, UCS said the MOX facility has seen estimated lifetime costs rise to approximately $30 billion from an initial $1.6 billion.

Lyman said security risks are present with the MOX proposal and that the storing and transport requirements involved in the MOX process open it up to risks of being stolen and possibly used in terrorist plots.

“The bottom line is the MOX program is too expensive and too risky to continue,” Lyman said. “The Energy Department’s own study supports that conclusion. Let’s stop throwing good money after bad and pull the plug on this $30 billion boondoggle.”

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