Today, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, sent a letter to the Department of Energy (DOE) questioning the value of the Department's plan to convert surplus weapons-grade plutonium into Mixed-Oxide Fuel (MOX) that could be used in nuclear power plants. The project is over budget, raises non-proliferation concerns, lacks even a single customer for the MOX fuel, and is far more expensive than disposing of the material as waste.
"The government's plutonium plan is a pluperfect disaster," said Rep. Markey. "It is over budget, riddled with delays and problems, and is producing a product that no one wants. And all to produce $2 billion worth of reactor fuel at a cost of tens of billions of taxpayer dollars and damage to our global non-proliferation efforts."
Rep. Markey has long opposed plans to dispose of surplus plutonium by making MOX fuel on the grounds that the cost and environmental impact of this approach have been grossly underestimated, that this approach blurs the longstanding distinction between civilian and military uses of nuclear technology and raises nonproliferation concerns, and that alternative approaches have not been properly considered. In 1997 and again in 2002, Mr. Markey raised concerns with the Secretary of Energy regarding this program, and he included complete cancelation of this senseless plan in H.R. 3975, the Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures Act, which was introduced in 2012.
Mr. Markey's letter asks:
How much will it cost to complete the MOX facility, begin operations, process all surplus plutonium, and finally shut down the program; and what is the timeline for these operations?
Which nuclear power plants will use MOX fuel, how will DOE secure their agreement, and at what cost?
What will be the value of the MOX fuel that is produced?
What would be the cost and timeline to dispose of surplus plutonium as waste?