by Jarret Adams
The MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility under construction in South Carolina serves several important goals: It provides a way to remove weapons-grade material from the nation’s military stockpiles. At the same time, the mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel produced by the facility will help generate reliable, emission-free electricity for Americans.
The construction project led by Shaw AREVA MOX Services (MOX Services) has been making excellent progress over the past year and the facility is beginning to take shape. The facility is expected to begin delivering MOX fuel in 2017, and the project is on track to do just that.
However, some antinuclear groups have been spreading misinformation about the MOX Project. Conversion of weapons-grade material into MOX fuel is one of the best methods for making this material unusable for military purposes. Based on President Obama’s desire to reduce our stockpiles of this material, demand for facilities such as the MOX Project, are set to increase not decrease.
It is illogical to oppose nuclear weapons and also oppose programs, such as the MOX facility, that help dispose of nuclear weapons.
Simply put, converting weapons-grade material into fuel to generate electricity makes the nation safer. (In a similar initiative, converted Russian weapons material has been quietly supplying half of our nation’s nuclear plant fuel for years and is making the world a safer place.)
Despite what opponents of the MOX Project would like to believe, the project continues to have support of the U.S. government and the industry. MOX Services is still in negotiations with several utilities, including Duke Energy, and is confident it will have customers for the plant output well before 2017.
Opponents of the project also have characterized the experience with the lead test assemblies (LTAs) as a “failure.” Also untrue. The LTAs performed well during the first two cycles in the reactors. After the second cycle, inspectors noticed that they grew slightly more than what had been established in pre-set criteria. At no time did the MOX assemblies present a safety hazard.
The adjustments to future MOX fuel assemblies will be a minor one, according AREVA fuel experts, and can be demonstrated on uranium fuel. Our experts also believe that no repeat of the MOX LTA tests will be required.
As we have mentioned previously, AREVA has decades of experience in the production of MOX fuel at its MELOX facility in France. AREVA has many satisfied MOX fuel customers and is even winning new ones.