Plutonium disposal costs set to rise

3 July 2003

Estimates for the cost of disposing of 34t of Russian military plutonium have risen substantially, according to the latest figures.

Much of the increase resulted from an escalation in ruble-denominated costs, including the higher capital cost to build a MOX plant in Russia, replicating the planned US facility at the US Department of Energy's (DOE) Savannah River site.

The updated study by a joint US-Russian working group said that the lowest case scenario of US$2.1 billion was around 20% more than in the earlier 2001 study. The previous study assumed transfer of the Siemens Hanau MOX plant.

The other two scenarios suggest that for $2.7 billion, the material can be burned in VVERs and a BN-600 reactor, using vibropack fuel fabrication technology. The BN-600 could burn a majority of the plutonium, while 15t of MOX could be exported to Western reactors. The latter option goes against an original principle of the scheme to quarantine it from commercial operations outside of Russia.
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