Sunday, February 5, 2012

Mox Fuel Unsafe and Not Needed: Ditto for Nuclear Power in All Forms

The "Uranium Supply Crunch" is worsening. The anticipated supply crunch has contributed to the drive for Mox fuel, in addition to the desire by the DoD to "recycle" plutonium and uranium from nuclear weapons. 

Commercial reactor operators have been reluctant to incorporate Mox because it burns hotter and is more risk prone. However, in the context of an uranium deficit and DoD pressure, commercial plants may succumb, particularly if enticed with government guarantees.

Below find documentation of the uranium crunch, US efforts to re-process nuclear weapons into fuel, and an analysis of the dangers of mox fuel

"Uranium Supply Crunch" documented here:

A government "fact" sheet dated Feb 2011 on Mox as converting "Swords to Plowshares" is available here:

The government fact sheet asserts these benefits from Mox:
"In addition to its critical nonproliferation benefits, the U.S. MOX strategy supports additional NNSA and DOE missions by: 
  • Facilitating Complex Transformation efforts to reduce the size of the NNSA nuclear security enterprise by consolidating materials to SRS from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Pantex Plant, the Hanford Site, and the Rocky Flats Site;
  • Establishing the capability to dispose of additional plutonium from future weapons dismantlements; and 
  • Disposing of surplus U.S. weapon-grade plutonium demonstrates that the United States is living up to its nonproliferation commitments by drawing down its nuclear arsenal in a transparent and irreversible manner."
As evident here, the sole goal of getting rid of stored plutonium appears to be driving the government program.

The "white elephant" Savannah re-processing plant, designed to generate plutonium from weapons for Mox fuel, is critiqued for its spending and market positioning here. The plant construction broke ground in 2007:

Trento, (2011, ). The Bomb Plant: A Mox White Elephant"
[excerpted] "The National Nuclear Security Administration may have a $10 billion taxpayer-financed white elephant on its hands based on Britain’s experience with a similar plant that has been shuttered after a decade of failed operations.

"NNSA is building a French-designed plant to convert plutonium warheads into mixed oxide (MOX) reactor fuel at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site near Aiken, South Carolina. The United States’ MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility is over budget – already double the estimated costs – behind schedule and still has no commercial customers for the fuel. But the DOE is pushing ahead with construction at a time when international nuclear utilities are shuttering their failed MOX programs...

...MOX is made by combining uranium with plutonium extracted from spent reactor fuel or recycled from unused nuclear weapons. The reactor meltdown eliminated customers for the fuel. Japanese plutonium stored at Sellafield appears to have little future as reactor fuel for that country. Prior to Fukushima, MOX was used in about two percent of the fuel burned in reactors" [end quote]

The dangers of Mox are documented here, as well as the non-necessity of nuclear fuel. We don't need nuclear.

Abstract: The Great Tohoku–Kanto earthquake and the resulting tsunami have brought considerable attention to the issue of building new nuclear power plants. In this paper we argue that nuclear power is not a sustainable solution to energy problems. First, we explore the stock of uranium-235 and the different methods, fast breeder and MOX fuel reactors, developed by the nuclear power industry to exploit this resource. Second, we show that these fuel reactors are not feasible. Third, we show that the claim that nuclear energy can be used to reduce CO2 emissions is false: the emissions from the increased water evaporation from nuclear power generation must be accounted for. In the case of Japan, water from nuclear power plants is drained into the surrounding sea, raising the water temperature which has an adverse effect on the immediate ecosystem, as well as increasing CO2 emissions from increased water evaporation from the sea. Next, a short exercise is used to show that nuclear power is not needed to meet electricity demand in Japan. Such an exercise should be performed for any country considering the construction of additional nuclear power plants. Lastly, the paper is concluded with a discussion of the implications of our paper. [Copyright &y& Elsevier]

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