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NRC Licensing of Fuel Assembly Process Advances MOX Program

Allows important U.S.-Russian Nonproliferation Program to Move Forward

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The National Nuclear Security Administration's (NNSA) plutonium disposition program today moved another step forward after a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announcement that it has issued a license to authorize Duke Power's use of four mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel lead assemblies at its Catawba nuclear power plant near Rock Hill, S.C. The assemblies are currently being fabricated in France.

"The NRC's decision is clearly an important step toward advancing our nonproliferation goals and meeting our milestones in the program," NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Paul Longsworth said. "We look forward to beginning site preparation activities for the U.S. MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site later this spring, and starting construction next year."

NNSA's plutonium disposition program aims to eliminate 34 metric tons of surplus weapon-grade plutonium both in the United States and in Russia, and is based on a 2000 nonproliferation agreement between the two countries. Both countries will dispose of their plutonium by converting it to MOX fuel for use in existing nuclear reactors. Once the MOX fuel has been irradiated, the plutonium can no longer be readily used for nuclear weapons.

Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for maintaining and enhancing the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; working to reduce global danger from weapons of mass destruction; providing the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responding to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.


Media contact(s):
Bryan Wilkes/NNSA (202) 586-7371

Number: NA-05-04