Study Probes Effects of U.S. MOX Fuel Plan

The Obama administration is set this week to formally release a preliminary study into the anticipated ecological effects of operating two nuclear power plants using mixed-oxide fuel derived from nuclear-weapon plutonium, the Chattanooga Times-Free Press reported on Wednesday (see GSN, April 11, 2011).

The analysis, slated for publication in the Federal Register, reviews a proposal to by 2018 begin using MOX fuel to operate the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant in Tennessee and the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in Alabama.

The federal Tennessee Valley Authority, which operates the atomic sites, has offered its initial assent to the plan. The agency on Tuesday issued a statement on its contributions to the National Nuclear Security Administration study.

"TVA is willing to consider using mixed oxide fuel if it meets three criteria: It is operationally and environmentally safe; economically beneficial to TVA customers; and licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission," spokesman Ray Golden said.

MOX fuel operates at a higher temperature than other power reactor material and could increase the risk of accidents, according to some detractors of the proposal.

The facility under preparation in South Carolina to produce the fuel is expected to cost almost $5 billion (see GSN, May 3).

"The use of this experimental fuel in TVA's aging reactors could have negative safety reactions," said Tom Clements, southeastern nuclear campaign coordinator at Friends of the Earth. He noted that no other commercial utility firms had stepped forward to look at powering their reactors with the MOX fuel (Pam Sohn, Chattanooga Times-Free Press, July 25).

July 25, 2012
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The Obama administration is set this week to formally release a preliminary study into the anticipated ecological effects of operating two nuclear power plants using mixed-oxide fuel derived from nuclear-weapon plutonium, the Chattanooga Times-Free Press reported on Wednesday.

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