The US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) on 23 October issued a contract termination notice to the consortium building the Mox Fuel fabrication Facility (MFFF) at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. 

The plant, which is some 70% complete, was intended to dispose of 34 tonnes of weapons-grade plutonium by turning it into fuel for commercial nuclear reactors. US Energy Secretary Rick Perry informed Congress in May that he had ended the project and NNSA delivered an official notice of termination to the MFFF contractors and guarantors on 10 October.

The MFFF was the result of a US-Russian agreement signed in 2000. The Plutonium Management Disposition Agreement (PMDA) required each country to permanently dispose of 34 metric tons of surplus weapons-grade plutonium. After evaluating disposal methods both countries agreed to use the plutonium in mixed oxide fuel for light water reactors (LWRs), with the US also including the option of immobilising some of the the plutonium. In 2010, the agreement was amended to change the disposition methods. Russia decided to use the Mox in fast reactors rather than LWRs while the US dropped the immobilisation option. 

While the USA struggled with the technology and cost of building a Mox plant Russia’s Mox fabrication facility was officially launched in September 2015. Work started on the MFFF in 2007 based on France's Melox facility. The original start-up date of 2016 was changed to 2019 costs escalated from $4.9 billion to $7.7 billion. The project was placed on cold standby and was effectively terminated in 2016 in response to which Russia froze the PMDA.  

NNSA said its termination notice is a continuation of previous actions “following the certification submitted to the Congressional defence committees by the Secretary of Energy in May 2018 and the partial stop work order that began the contract termination process”.  NNSA said it was “committed to supporting the current workforce and will work with MOX Services throughout this transition process to reduce short-term impacts to workers, the surrounding community, and the State of South Carolina”.