Will DOE’s Surplus Plutonium End Up in New Mexico?
The Department of Energy (DOE) has 61.5 metric tons of what it calls “surplus” nuclear weapons-grade plutonium. Approximately 13 metric tons is currently stored in the old K-Reactor building at the DOE’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina. It can stay there until a technically sound and publicly accepted plan is developed and implemented. But the public has to demand that better approach. Many groups have stated that the next step
should be an environmental impact statement process to discuss the reasonable alternatives.
The previous plan was to mix the plutonium with uranium to create mixed-oxide, or MOX, fuel for nuclear power plants. But DOE’s construction of a MOX facility was decades behind schedule and tens of billions of dollars over budget. The Obama administration proposed terminating it. South Carolina politicians resisted, so for several years Congress funded the construction.
Congress did allow DOE to terminate the MOX facility, which it did in 2018. http://www.srswatch.org/uploads/2/7/5/8/27584045/srs_watch_on_mox_termination_letter_october_12_2018.pdf
Lawsuits were filed by South Carolina to keep the construction going. Last June, a federal district judge granted South Carolina’s request for a preliminary injunction to continue construction. But on January 8th, a federal appeals court in Virginia issued a final, strongly worded ruling affirming the DOE’s termination of the boondoggled MOX project. http://www.srswatch.org/uploads/2/7/5/8/27584045/srs_watch_on_appeal_ct_mox_termination_ruling_january_8_2019.pdf
Tom Clements, Director of Savannah River Site Watch, said, “This ruling by the appellate court is thankfully one of the very last nails in the coffin of the problem-plagued MOX project. Now, all termination activities at the MOX project must continue apace and the taxpayer must be relieved of the burden the mismanaged project caused.” http://www.srswatch.org/uploads/2/7/5/8/27584045/srs_watch_news_on_mox_reactor_photos_jan_4_2019.pdf
DOE will ship some of the surplus plutonium to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) for disposal. The recently approved permit modification to increase WIPP’s capacity would allow for more surplus plutonium. http://nuclearactive.org/environment-department-approves-30-percent-wipp-expansion/
In response to other South Carolina litigation, DOE also plans to ship some of the surplus plutonium, approximately one metric ton, from South Carolina to the Device Assembly Facility (DAF) at the Nevada Test Site. But the State of Nevada has sued to prevent such shipments. http://www.srswatch.org/uploads/2/7/5/8/27584045/savannah_river_site_watch__news_on_plutonium_shipment_court_hearings_jan_7_2019.pdf
Eventually, DOE plans for that surplus plutonium to be shipped to Los Alamos National Laboratory for use in nuclear weapons. http://www.srswatch.org/uploads/2/7/5/8/27584045/savannah_river_site_watch__news_on_plutonium_shipment_court_hearings_jan_7_2019.pdf
These are yet additional proposed assaults on New Mexico. However, since the public is opposed to those plans, the New Mexico state government and the congressional delegation can demand new and better plans. DOE has made a mess. New Mexico has and is doing its part. New Mexico should not be targeted for more surplus plutonium.
DID YOU KNOW?
1. Due to the government shutdown, the January 23 – 24, 2019 NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board hearing about the Holtec license application will be moved to a new location. Please stay tuned to CCNS. We’ll let you know as soon as we know. For more information about the NRC Holtec hearing, http://nuclearactive.org/nrc-holds-holtec-hearing-in-albuquerque-on-january-23rd/
2. On Monday, January 7, 2019, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham appointed James Kenney as Secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department. Read Laura Paskus interview with him at http://nmpoliticalreport.com/2019/01/10/qa-with-incoming-nmed-head-a-commitment-to-go-big-on-environmental-issues/?mc_cid=c6288d5b57&mc_eid=797c9d1c41
Tags: "surplus" nuclear weapons-grade plutonium, boondoggle, DAF, Department of Energy, Device Assembly Facility, DOE, LANL, Los Alamos National Laboratory, mixed-oxide fuel, MOX, nevada test site, new mexico, Savannah River Site, Savannah River Site Watch, surplus plutonium, Tom Clements, Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, WIPP