The Department of Energy will build a mixed-oxide fuel fabrication plant at the Savannah River nuclear weapons complex in South Carolina.
The South Carolina MOX plant, slated to begin production sometime in 2007, will be the integral component of DOE’s “dual strategy” announced last year for disposing of about 50 t of excess weapons-usable plutonium left over from years of warhead production and stockpiling during the Cold War. Most of the excess plutonium will be fabricated into MOX fuel, then burned in commercial reactors. Another 8 t of the plutonium will be vitrified and then stored in a permanent underground facility, probably Yucca Mountain in Nevada. The decision on where to build the MOX fuel fabrication facility was made on 23 June by outgoing Energy Secretary Frederico Peña. DOE had also been considering its Pantex plant near Amarillo, Texas, as a possible site. The Hanford weapons complex in Washington state and the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory had been ruled out earlier.
The department must still choose either Savannah River or Pantex as the site where the plutonium will be separated from weapons.