Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel – a blend of plutonium and uranium oxides – has been successfully used in commercial nuclear reactors in Europe and Japan for more than 40 years. Now MOX is coming to the United States to help fuel nuclear power plants while fulfilling America’s commitment in a landmark nuclear nonproliferation agreement.
As the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union broke apart, U.S. policy makers considered options to dispose of a growing surplus of plutonium from dismantled nuclear weapons. A comprehensive study by the prestigious National Academy of Sciences in 1994 identified conversion of the plutonium into MOX fuel as a preferred alternative. In 1999 the U.S. Department of Energy initiated plans to design and construct a MOX manufacturing facility.
In 2000, the United States and the Russian Federation committed to each dispose of at least 34 metric tons of surplus plutonium, sufficient for approximately 8,500 nuclear weapons per country. A protocol signed in 2010 updated the agreement to specify that the plutonium be converted to MOX fuel.
CB&I AREVA MOX Services, LLC, is under contract with DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration to design, build, and operate a MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) at the Savannah River Site in Aiken, South Carolina. DOE authorized construction to begin in 2007.
Once completed, the facility will manufacture MOX from uranium and weapons-grade plutonium and encase it in fuel rods designed for use in existing nuclear power plants.