FederalRegister Notice Obtained in Advance, with Meetings Dates in NM, SC, TN, AL
For Immediate release
July 26, 2012
Contact: Tom Clements, tel. 803-834-3084, cell 803-240-7268, firstname.lastname@example.org
Columbia, SC – A key Department of Energy (DOE) environmentaldocument analyzing disposal of 13.1 metric tons of surplus weapons-gradeplutonium and which is to be formally released on Friday, July 27, isinadequate and must be discarded, according to the Alliance for NuclearAccountability (ANA), a public interest organization which has beenmonitoring the program since its inception in the mid-1990s.
“Even though questions about the cost and direction of the programto dispose of plutonium as nuclear fuel are growing, the document breaks no newground and poses few new options which are badly needed concerning disposal ofthe nation’s surplus plutonium,” said Tom Clements, Nonproliferation PolicyDirector for the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA). “Giventhe significant obstacles that confront this program as now conceived, DOE mustbegin a full review of plutonium disposition options and develop new approachesnot tied to use of costly experimental plutonium fuel.”
The Draft Surplus Plutonium Disposition Supplemental EnvironmentalImpact Statement (Draft SPD SEIS), which has been in preparation since May2007, is to be formally released on Friday, July 27, via a “notice” in theFederal Register. An advance copy of that notice – which is linkedbelow – reveals that plans to test and use plutonium fuel (mixed oxide, MOX)remain speculative.
The document makes clear that the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)continues to balk at use of MOX in its aging Browns Ferry (GE Mark 1 Fukushimadesign) and Sequoyah reactors: “TVA does not have a preferred alternativeat this time regarding whether to pursue irradiation of MOX fuel in TVAreactors and which reactors might be used for thispurpose.” (Section S.10, page S-33)
“TVA must discard further consideration of MOX use as it will posesignificant safety problems for its reactors and create a financial liabilityat a time when TVA can ill afford to take on yet another problem-plaguednuclear project,” said Clements. “Further, DOE is not a reliable partnerwhen it comes to the MOX program, a factor which caused Duke Energy to abort aMOX test in 2008 and drop out of the program. The history of Duke’sexperience with MOX should be instructional for TVA.”
Use of MOX fuel poses a safety hazard during reactor operation andas the fuel is hotter it is harder to manage after removal from thereactor. As MOX made from weapons-grade plutonium has never beenused commercially anywhere in the world, this “new fuel form,” will requirelengthy testing licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission(NRC). The draft SEIS totally ignores the need for testing,especially in the problem-plagued Browns Ferry reactors, which could be ashow-stopper for the program as a 10-year test would only conclude a few yearsbefore the reactors are slated to close in 2033, 2034 and 2036, leavinginsufficient time to use the MOX in those reactors.
“Ignoring the need for testing of this experimental fuel onlyserves to reveal that DOE is desperate in its efforts to force TVA or anotherutility to use MOX, but the NRC will be the judge about need for requiredtesting and DOE’s wishful thinking about testing avoidance is irrelevant,” saidClements.
Soaring costs of the plutonium disposition program and failure toidentify reactors to use the MOX product have caused increased congressionaloversight, including a cut by the House of Representatives of $169 million ofthe $888 million Fiscal Year 2013 budget request for plutoniumdisposition. The Senate is yet to act. While DOE refusesto reveal an overall life-cycle cost for the MOX program, ANA estimatesthat about $17.5 billion is yet to be spent on the MOX program and that the 34metric tons of plutonium could be disposed of as waste at a far lower pricetag. “The blank check DOE is holding on the MOX program must now becanceled by Congress.”
A 60-day comment period on the draft document begins on July 27and the dates for public meetings, which ANA urges citizens to participate in,are as follows:
- August 21,2012 (5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.) Holiday Inn Express, 60 Entrada Drive, Los Alamos, New Mexico87544
- August 23,2012 (5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.) Courtyard by Marriott Santa Fe, 3347 Cerrillos Road, Santa Fe,New Mexico 87507
- August 28,2012 (5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.) Pecos River Village Conference Center, 711 Muscatel Drive,Carlsbad, NM 88220
- September4, 2012 (5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.) North Augusta Municipal Center, 100 Georgia Avenue, NorthAugusta, South Carolina 29841
- September11, 2012 (5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.) Chattanooga Convention Center, 1150 Carter Street, Chattanooga,TN 37402
- September13, 2012 (5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.) Calhoun Community College, Decatur Campus, Aerospace Building,6250 Highway 31 North, Tanner, AL 35671
“Radioactive mixed oxide fuel (MOX) made from weapons-gradeplutonium does not meet the criteria proposed by TVA for using such fuel inTVA's aging nuclear reactors and must be rejected,” said Sandy Kurtz, aChattanooga resident who is a cofounder of Bellefonte Efficiency &Sustainability Team/Mothers Against Tennessee River Radiation(BEST/MATRR). “We encourage citizens concerned about the safety problemsposed by MOX use and the associated financial risks its use will cause toattend the environmental meetings and express their views.”
1. Early release of Federal Register “notice” of DraftSurplus Plutonium Disposition EIS (to be formally “noticed’ in the FederalRegister on Friday, July 27): http://www.ofr.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2012-18281_PI.pdf
2. TVA 1-page “fact Sheet” on Mixed Oxide Fuel, sent toreporters on July 24, 2012
3. Thedraft SEIS is already posted here - see Appendix J (Volume 2) forcursory analysis of use of Browns Ferry and Sequoyah reactors:
§ Draft SPD Supplemental EIS - Summary
§ Draft SPD Supplemental EIS - Volume 1
§ Draft SPD Supplemental EIS - Volume 2
4. December 30, 2011 letter from the Nuclear Waste TechnicalReview Board to DOE, citing TVA’s assessment that spent MOX fuel posespotentially significant handling and disposal problems:
“Mr. Daniel Stout from the Tennessee Valley Authority describedthe process that his utility is employing to determine the implications ofusing MOX fabricated surplus-weapons plutonium at one or more of its reactors.He noted that the decay heat of a spent MOX fuel assembly would be between 1.3and 1.7 times higher than that for an equivalent spent-uranium fuel assembly.Consequently, the used MOX would need to be kept in dry cask storage for anadditional 56 years to have the same thermal impact on a repository at the timeof emplacement. For certain repository designs, that difference could beconsequential.”
5. MOX-related document on Alliance for NuclearAccountability (AN) website:
6. Sandy Kurtz, Bellefonte Efficiency & SustainabilityTeam/Mothers Against Tennessee River Radiation (BEST/MATRR). cellnumber: 423-488-5668