In its final environmental impact report on the proposed Savannah River, South Carolina, MOX facility the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has said that converting plutonium into mixed-oxide fuel is safer than storing it underground.

The NRC has recommended a license for the plant that is designed to mix some 34 tonnes of plutonium with depleted uranium in order to create a fuel for use in commercial reactors. Those opposed to the MOX plan argue that plutonium should be vitrified and buried instead.

The NRC report identified the primary benefit of the MOX process as the reduction in the amount of plutonium in storage and the Commission is expected to decide in the coming months whether to issue a construction license and a subsequent operating permit. Russia also has plans to build a conversion facility for 34 tonnes of its own excess plutonium.