Washington, D.C. – The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today announced that Shaw AREVA MOX Services, LLC (MOX Services) and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) have signed a letter of intent to enter into contract negotiations for the irradiation of mixed oxide (MOX) fuel. MOX Services is NNSA's contractor to build and operate the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility, which currently is under construction at the Savannah River Site near Aiken, South Carolina. The MOX fuel will be fabricated from surplus weapon-grade plutonium at the facility.
The MOX program is a critical part of NNSA's nuclear nonproliferation efforts. The program will take at least 34 metric tons of surplus weapon-grade plutonium -- enough material for approximately 8,500 nuclear weapons -- and use it to create MOX fuel for use in nuclear power plants to generate electricity and render the plutonium unusable for nuclear weapons.
"The letter of intent signed by the Tennessee Valley Authority and MOX Services is an important step forward for a critical nuclear nonproliferation objective," said NNSA Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Ken Baker. "By disposing of surplus weapons plutonium in a transparent and irreversible manner, the United States is demonstrating our commitment to meeting our nuclear nonproliferation commitments. The MOX program is an important component of our nuclear security agenda that also holds the promise of cheaper nuclear reactor fuel for consumers."
The nonbinding letter of intent signed by MOX Services and TVA comes one week after President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a joint statement on nuclear cooperation that reaffirmed their commitment to disposing of 34 metric tons each of weapons-grade plutonium in the United States and Russia.
TVA is evaluating the use of MOX fuel in its Sequoyah Units 1 and 2, its Browns Ferry Units 1, 2, and 3, as well as future reactors. Following further evaluation, TVA and MOX Services intend to enter contract negotiations that could result in the execution of an agreement in the summer of 2010 for irradiation of MOX fuel in two or more reactors. According to current schedules, the MOX facility will begin producing fuel in 2016. In addition to TVA, there are three other utilities interested in irradiating MOX fuel.
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.
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