Mixed oxide fuel

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What is mixed oxide (MOX) fuel?

The mixed oxide fuel proposed by Shaw AREVA MOX Services (formerly Duke COGEMA Stone & Webster (DCS)) is a blend of plutonium dioxide and depleted uranium dioxide that will be used as fuel in commercial nuclear power plants. Depleted uranium is a byproduct of the uranium enrichment process. Plutonium dioxide will be extracted from retired nuclear weapons and other sources of surplus plutonium. The purpose of manufacturing MOX fuel is to meet the goals of the U.S. Department of Energy's Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program. Under this program, DOE will reduce the inventory of fissile material from nuclear weapons by converting approximately 34 metric tons of surplus weapons grade plutonium into MOX fuel for use in commercial nuclear power plants. The process of converting the fissile material into MOX fuel renders the plutonium less attractive for use in nuclear weapons. In some countries, MOX fuel is manufactured by recycling plutonium from spent nuclear fuel. That is not the case in the proposed MOX program in the U.S.

Why was Savannah River Site chosen as the location for the MOX fuel fabrication facility?

The Savannah River Site was selected by the Department of Energy. As part of the selection process, the DOE prepared an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and solicited public input through meetings and comments on the EIS.

Is MOX fuel currently produced in the U.S. or elsewhere?

MOX fuel is not currently being produced in the U.S., but several European countries have been producing MOX fuel for more than 20 years. Their supply of plutonium is from spent nuclear fuel rather than nuclear weapons. Under agreements between Russia and the U.S., Russia also plans to build and operate a MOX fuel fabrication facility in Russia to reduce its surplus plutonium stockpile.

What is NRC's regulatory responsibility for MOX?

Congress assigned responsibility for licensing the proposed DOE MOX fuel fabrication facility to NRC. Two NRC offices have regulatory responsibility for MOX. The Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards will be responsible for licensing the proposed MOX fuel fabrication facility, which is intended to make fuel assemblies for commercial power plants. NRC's Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation (NRR) will be responsible for licensing the use of the MOX fuel in commercial power plants.

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