MOX fuel made from surplus plutonium from the US nuclear arsenal helped Catawba 1 reach full power this month.
Operator Duke Power reported that Catawba 1, a 1200MWe PWR, had been running at 100% power for over a week. Duke’s Steve Nesbitt said that Catawba’s MOX fuel assemblies are “behaving exactly as expected.”
The fuel was made in France by Cogema at Cadarache from 140kg of US military as part of a deal between the USA and Russia calling for each party to reduce military Pu inventories by 34 tonnes. The transatlantic shipment of the Pu attracted a lot of attention – particularly from Greenpeace upon arrival in France.
The USA intends to use the remainder of the 34 tonnes of Pu at a MOX fabrication facility to be constructed at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site. The facility will be owned by the DoE’s National Nuclear Security Administration and built by an alliance of Duke, Cogema and Stone & Webster.
A twin facility is intended for Russia, where her 34 tonnes of plutonium will also be made into MOX. Talks are ongoing between Russian and US officials but US energy secretary Sam Bodman recently said that presidents Bush and Putin had made “significant progress” and would “soon” agree on an approach to solve their differences. Obstacles to the deal include the liability of US companies working in Russia.