MOX Fuel

Jeremy Rifkin: Five (actually 6) reasons why nuclear is not a good business model or the answer to climate change

At the Wermuth Asset Management 5th Annual Investor Event, Jeremy Rifkin responded to the question: What would be your view on nuclear energy with five, actually six, reasons for why nuclear is not an answer to climate change. The number of active plants in the world may go up or down by a couple, the percentage points of nuclear in the energy mix may vary by a few from time to time, but what he says has been true for a long while and it will be true going forward despite any small changes in the numbers. In terms of the money, the cost will only rise.

And one thing he doesn't say- if nuclear is not a part of the solution to climate change than the enormous amount of money thrown at this dead end technology, and the huge waste of precious time that could be spent on viable solutions make nuclear an active agent in accelerating climate change.

In brief:

1. Nuclear would have to be 20% to have the minimum minimum impact on climate change. That means we’d have to replace the existing 400 nuclear plants and build 1600 additional plants. Three nuclear plants would have to be built every 30 days for 40 years to get to 20% and by that time climate change would have pretty much run its course with us...

2. We still don’t know how to recycle the nuclear waste and we’re seventy years in. Now, we have good engineers in the US. We spent 18 years & $8 billion building an underground vault in Yucca Mountain to store the wastes for 10,000 years. We can’t use it. We can’t even store them...

3. We run into uranium deficits, according to the Department of Atomic Energy Commission, you may know this, between 2025 and 2035 for just the existing 400 plants. So, that means the price goes up. 

4. We could do what the French generation of new plants are doing and recycle the uranium to plutonium. But then we have plutonium all over the world in an age of uncertainty and terrorism.

5. We don’t have the water.

6. Nuclear power is centralized power, like fossil fuels. It doesn’t fit a new generation that’s moving with the kind of technologies that are distributed, collaborative, and laterally scaled. It’s an old technology.

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Royal Society denies bias over Sellafield report

After years of contentious debate Sellafield was finally shut down only to attempt a rise from the ashes in this new proposal to build a second MOX plant. The industry has shown it will not go down without a fight, but the failure to address the safety hazards that led to the demise of Sellafield 1, or the enormous cost to taxpayers, indicate that if the people of Britain are reading the fine print they should fight back harder. Once was bad enough, and Sellafield was already on its second life (formally dba as the ill fated Windscale, site of Britain's worst nuclear accident). A third chance is asking for too much risk, financial and safety wise. This is the industry looking for money, not a project that will benefit Britain in any way.

The Independent l Steve Connor  13 October, 2011

Britain's top scientific organisation has backed a controversial proposal to build a second multibillion-pound nuclear fuel plant at Sellafield in Cumbria to deal with the UK's enormous stockpile of civil plutonium, but it has done so without addressing either the cost or the failures of an existing fuel plant, which had to be closed this year.

A Royal Society report says another mixed oxide (Mox) fuel plant at Sellafield is the only way of dealing with the plutonium stockpile at the site, but it pointedly fails to discuss either the costs of the new plant or the reasons why the existing Sellafield Mox plant has been such a disaster.

Critics say that the society's inquiry into the nuclear fuel cycle has been heavily influenced by the vested interests of the nuclear industry. One of the experts on the report's working group, Dr Christine Brown, was a key figure at Sellafield when British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL) was building its Mox plant.

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Nuclear Industry still Skeptical of MOX fuel

More controversy and hesitation about MOX fuel. Dangerous, expensive, a proliferation risk- MOX fuel manufacture is the biggest contaminator of the atmosphere and oceans. We need to permanently secure the plutonium from decommissioning  nuclear weapons. Not send it back out into the world in a new form to do more damage.

DC Bureau l  David Rosenfeld  9 may, 2011

A $5 billion American-taxpayer-funded plant being built by the French-government-controlled company AREVA has no buyer yet for the controversial fuel

In the quest to convert plutonium from 170,000 nuclear warheads into usable forms of mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has a vexing political problem on its hands. Virtually no commercial nuclear power company wants to touch the stuff.

Critics say MOX fuel is potentially more dangerous because it burns hotter and contains more plutonium than traditional low-enriched uranium used in nuclear power plants. Fuel rods made of MOX fuel pose greater dangers for storage, too, because they take longer to cool down. As seen in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster, pools of spent fuel rods can pose an equally dangerous hazard as the reactors themselves.

So far, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) – the nation’s largest government-owned utility – is the likeliest candidate to use MOX fuel in possibly up to five of its nuclear reactors by 2017 at the earliest. If TVA accepts MOX fuel from a plant under construction at DOE’s Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina, it will mark the first commercial use of weapons grade plutonium for energy in the world.

Two TVA reactors are located at the Sequoyah facility outside Chattanooga, Tennessee, and three at Browns Ferry in northern Alabama, where the TVA recently issued an emergency alert when storms and tornados damaged electrical transmission lines to the facility...

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Closure of Japanese plant casts doubt on viability of Sellafield's Mox operation

"If the Japanese premier gets his way, however, Hamaoka will be shut long before Sellafield is ready to fulfil its only definite order for Mox fuel. This would torpedo the entire rationale for building and opening the £498m Sellafield Mox Plant, which was to fabricate hundreds of tonnes of Mox fuel for Japanese reactors."

The best possible conclusion to the issue of the MOX plant at Sellafield would be to shut it down. It should not have taken an accident of this magnitude to force that issue to the front of the list. The plant is already one of the "biggest disasters in Britain's industrial history." Yet another bad idea in Sellafield's checkered history.

Steve Conner l The Independent    9 May, 2011

The future of a nuclear fuel plant at Sellafield in Cumbria hangs in the balance after the Japanese Prime Minister called for the closure of a nuclear power station near Tokyo, which was to be the UK plant's most important customer.


The setback is the latest blow to Britain's faltering strategy for dealing with its growing mountain of reprocessed nuclear waste, and further evidence of the extent to which the devastating Japanese earthquake of 11 March has changed the nuclear picture – in particular the international trade in reprocessed nuclear fuel.

If the power plant at Hamaoka, 200km from Tokyo, closes, shipments of nuclear fuel to Japan from the Sellafield Mox Plant would stop before they had even started. It is the latest in a long series of problems for the nuclear fuel plant at the Sellafield complex which had already cost taxpayers £1.34bn even before the impact of the earthquake and tsunami was felt.

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New Doubts About Turning Plutonium Into a Fuel

As Britain faces a MOX crisis at Sellafied, so the US looks at the same crisis at Savannah River Site. The failed MOX plant at SRS has long been a contentious issue between the site boosters, and impacted residents and environmentalists.

NYTimesJO BECKER and WILLIAM J. BROAD  11 April, 2011

On a tract of government land along the Savannah River in South Carolina, an army of workers is building one of the nation’s most ambitious nuclear enterprises in decades: a plant that aims to safeguard at least 43 tons of weapons-grade plutonium by mixing it into fuel for commercial power reactors.

The project grew out of talks with the Russians to shrink nuclear arsenals after the cold war. The plant at the Savannah River Site, once devoted to making plutonium for weapons, would now turn America’s lethal surplus to peaceful ends. Blended with uranium, the usual reactor fuel, the plutonium would be transformed into a new fuel called mixed oxide, or mox...

...But 11 years after the government awarded a construction contract, the cost of the project has soared to nearly $5 billion. The vast concrete and steel structure is a half-finished hulk, and the government has yet to find a single customer, despite offers of lucrative subsidies.

Now, the nuclear crisis in Japan has intensified a long-running conflict over the project’s rationale.

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Government's doomed £6bn plan to dispose of nuclear waste

MOX fuel takes another, long deserved, hit at Sellafield, as prospective Japanese buyers back away after Fukushima. This will maroon the MOX fuel in Britain. What's their answer? Build another MOX plant at tremendous cost to British taxpayers, and with no real customers on the horizon.

The Independent l Steve Connor, Science Editor    11 April, 2011

The nuclear crisis in Japan threatens a carefully choreographed UK Government plan to tackle the world's biggest mountain of plutonium waste stored at the Sellafield site in Cumbria.

Japanese nervousness about nuclear power following the near-meltdown at the Fukushima plant has led to a freeze in the international trade of reprocessed nuclear fuel that the Government sees as critical to solving Britain's own plutonium problem.

The Government's preferred strategy to eliminate the UK's growing plutonium stockpile centres on a technology that was developed to meet the demands of the Japanese market, yet there are now fears that Japan is about to turn its back on the enterprise.

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Nuclear Watch South Tell the DOE: STOP THE MOX PLUTONIUM FUEL BOONDOGGLE! YOUR COMMENTS NEEDED — GO ON RECORD FOR THE FUTURE! The 1970 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires governments and corporations to seek, record and respond to PU...

Risks of long‐term irradiated MOX fuel storage in pools on‐site at nuclear power plants

Risks of long‐term irradiated MOX fuel storage in pools on‐site at nuclear power plants Kevin Kamps / Beyond Nuclear: Powerpoint  


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Nuclear Power is not the Answer