U.S. Insiders Divided on MOX Plant's Fate

U.S. political insiders and independent experts are divided over whether to continue building a site in South Carolina to convert nuclear weapon-usable plutonium into reactor fuel, the Center for Public Integrity reported on Monday.

Work on the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility began under a 13-year-old deal requiring the United States and Russia in 2018 to each begin eliminating at least 34 metric tons of bomb plutonium, but the projected cost for the controversial project has increased from $4.9 billion to $7.7 billion. In addition, a 2010 update to the U.S.-Russian agreement permits Moscow to use material covered by the deal for its breeder reactors, a concession critics believe could result in Russia possessing even more plutonium.

The White House this year said it might cancel construction of the MOX plant in South Carolina. The project does not merit future backing because "it's not going to do what it was supposed to do," an Obama administration insider said.

Nuclear Threat Initiative President Joan Rohlfing defended the effort. "I am both surprised and disappointed" that Obama officials are thinking about axing the project, she said.

An alternative disposal plan could involve converting plutonium into glass-like logs through a process called vitrification.

Editor’s Note: The Nuclear Threat Initiative is the sole sponsor of Global Security Newswire, which is published independently by the National Journal Group.

June 24, 2013
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U.S. political insiders and independent experts are divided over whether to continue building a site in South Carolina to convert nuclear weapon-usable plutonium into reactor fuel, the Center for Public Integrity reported on Monday.