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Press Release

NNSA and Tennessee Valley Authority to Evaluate Plans for Disposing of Surplus Weapon-Grade Plutonium
Feb 25, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has signed an interagency agreement with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to evaluate the use of mixed oxide (MOX) fuel made from U.S. surplus weapons plutonium in TVA's Sequoyah and Browns Ferry nuclear power reactors. 

Converting the plutonium to spent fuel is an essential step in U.S. efforts to dispose of 34 metric tons of surplus weapon-grade plutonium withdrawn from the nuclear weapons program.  The U.S. program is complemented by parallel efforts to dispose of an equal quantity of Russian surplus weapon-grade plutonium. 

President Obama's recently released FY2011 Budget Request demonstrated his Administration's commitment to securing and reducing nuclear material worldwide by proposing a 25.8 percent increase for NNSA's Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation program.  Among the highlights of the $2.7 billion request for nonproliferation programs is a 47 percent increase for Fissile Materials Disposition -- including funding for construction of the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility at Savannah River, a $103.9 million increase for the Pit Disassembly and Conversion Facility (PDCF), and $100 million of a $400 million commitment to support Russian plutonium disposition activities.

"The MOX program is an important example of this Administration's commitment to irreversibly disposing of surplus nuclear weapons material in a way that realizes the energy value of the material and advances our nuclear nonproliferation agenda," said NNSA Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Ken Baker.  "This agreement is an important step in evaluating the use of MOX fuel in domestic nuclear reactors, and we look forward to working with the TVA as we move forward."

Irradiating the MOX fuel in domestic nuclear power reactors supports the Administration's efforts toward a world without nuclear weapons by irreversibly reducing the nuclear stockpile by disposing of 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium.  At the same time, irradiating MOX fuel realizes the energy value of the material.  The MOX fuel will be produced at the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility, currently under construction at the Department of Energy's Savannah River Site.  Under the interagency agreement, TVA will perform work on nuclear core design, licensing, environmental and reactor modification assessments, and other related activities to evaluate the use of MOX fuel in its reactors.

TVA and NNSA have worked together for nearly a decade on another vital nonproliferation effort, the Blended Low-Enriched Uranium (BLEU) Project, which focuses on the operation of several TVA reactors with low-enriched uranium fuel derived from U.S. surplus highly enriched uranium (HEU).  As part of this program, NNSA and TVA have disposed of nearly 40 metric tons of surplus HEU, which is enough material to make nearly 1,000 nuclear weapons, and have helped to reduce TVA's nuclear fuel costs.

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Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science in the nation's national security enterprise. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability, and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; reduces the global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad. Visit http://www.nnsa.energy.gov/ for more information.

Media contact(s):
NNSA Public Affairs (202) 586-7371