American people are realising the dangers of MOX plutonium nuclear fuel

MOX or not? Gov’t likes weapons fuel, public doesn’t  Equities.com, By Eric Fleischauer, The Decatur Daily, Ala. McClatchy-Tribune Information Services Sept. 14--The Energy Department believes it is safe to use weapons-grade fuel at Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant, but not many residents attending a public hearing Thursday agreed.
“They don’t need to have it here,” said Sara Crossfield of Athens, who has a farm near the Limestone County plant. “TVA’s charter requires them to protect us.”

U.S. treaties with Russia require the disposal of 50 tons of surplus plutonium. The treaties authorize disposal by recycling the weapons-grade plutonium into mixed-oxide fuel, or MOX, for use in nuclear reactors. MOX is a mixture of plutonium and low-enriched
uranium.
The purpose of Thursday’s public hearing was to receive comments on a draft document describing the environmental impact of using MOX. About 60 people attended.

While MOX is the Energy Department’s preferred alternative for most of the surplus plutonium, the Tennessee Valley Authority said it has no preference. Sachiko McAlhany, document manager for the U.S. Department of Energy, presented a summary of the environmental impact statement. She said the department concluded using MOX “does not appreciably change” the risk posed by conventional uranium fuel.

Neither McAlhany nor a TVA representative, Mick Mastilovic, answered questions at the hearing. The comments from the public will be incorporated into the final environmental impact statement, scheduled for a spring 2013 release.

The plutonium would be reprocessed into MOX at a $6 billion plant in South Carolina, operated by France-based AREVA. It would then have to be transported to Browns Ferry.

Many of the concerns expressed by those attending the hearing involved the cost of creating MOX and the risks involved in transport.
Concerns specific to Browns Ferry focused on the impact of the fuel – which burns at slightly higher temperatures than conventional fuel – on the reactors and the possibility that Browns Ferry would become a terrorist target.
TVA spokesman Ray Golden said Wednesday that MOX presents no
additional risk once in the reactors, because a portion of the
low-enriched uranium Browns Ferry uses already turns into plutonium.
This happens as Uranium-238 absorbs neutrons, converting it to
plutonium.
Tom Clements, nonproliferation policy director of Alliance for Nuclear
Accountability, attended the hearing. He said the percentage of
plutonium in the reactor would be much higher with MOX, increasing the
risk of an accident.
“It’s turned into an inefficient jobs program for the state of South
Carolina,” Clements said.
Many speakers said Browns Ferry is a uniquely poor choice for burning the fuel.
“To utilize plutonium mixed oxide at Browns Ferry is insanity
compounded,” said Garry Morgan, a resident of Scottsboro. “The Browns
Ferry reactors have enough problems.”
All three reactors have been cited recently by the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission as having degraded performance. Unit 1 was hit with a “red”
finding, the harshest sanction short of closing a plant.
“Browns Ferry is not the place to try out an unlicensed, untested and
potentially dangerous fuel source,” said Jimmy Green, who attended the
hearing for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy……
Golden said TVA would use MOX only if it decides it’s safe, if the
Nuclear Regulatory Commission approves it and if it saves money for
ratepayers.
“It has to be cheaper for our customers. Significantly cheaper,”
Golden said. “We’re not talking millions or even tens of millions,
we’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars in savings. Otherwise,
we’re not going to play in the game.”
Golden said he thinks the earliest Browns Ferry might use the fuel
would be in 2018.
TVA is the only utility committed to considering use of MOX, but
Swafford said that may change……
http://www.equities.com/news/headline-story?dt=2012-09-14&val=479809&cat=energy

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