On April 29, 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and TVA issued the Final Surplus Plutonium Disposition Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS).
To reduce the threat of nuclear weapons proliferation, DOE is engaged in a program to dispose of weapons-usable plutonium surplus to national defense needs in a safe, secure, and environmentally sound manner, by converting such plutonium into proliferation-resistant forms that can never again be readily used in nuclear weapons. In 1999, DOE issued a final environmental impact statement (EIS) and record of decision to make 34 metric tons of surplus weapons-usable plutonium available as mixed oxide (MOX) fuel for use in commercial nuclear reactors. That decision supported U.S. policy, efforts and international agreements to reduce the number of nuclear weapons and render the associated nuclear materials, including plutonium, unusable for weapons purposes. The 2015 SEIS analyzes the potential environmental impacts of alternatives for the disposition of an additional 13.1 metric tons of surplus weapons-usable plutonium.
The SEIS evaluates four action alternatives consisting of different methods for the disposition of the surplus plutonium including glass can-in-canister immobilization, fabrication as MOX fuel, processing and vitrification with high level waste, and disposal as transuranic waste. The SEIS also evaluates options for disassembling plutonium pits and converting the plutonium into an oxide.
DOE has no Preferred Alternative at this time for the disposition of the 13.1 metric tons of surplus plutonium due to DOE’s ongoing reassessment of potential plutonium disposition strategies. Once a Preferred Alternative is identified, DOE will announce its preference in a Federal Register notice. DOE would publish a Record of Decision no sooner than 30 days after its announcement of a Preferred Alternative.
Two of the four action alternatives analyzed in the SEIS include the fabrication of MOX fuel. Under the MOX Fuel Alternative, most of the 13.1 metric tons of surplus plutonium would be fabricated into MOX fuel. Under the H Canyon/JB Line to Defense Waste Processing Facility alternative, 7.1 tons of surplus plutonium would be fabricated into MOX fuel. Under both of the alternatives, the MOX fuel fabrication would occur at the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.
In 2010 TVA entered into an Interagency Agreement with DOE to investigate the potential for use of MOX fuel in TVA reactors. Consequently, the SEIS evaluates the use of MOX fuel in reactors at TVA’s Sequoyah Nuclear Plant in Hamilton County, Tennessee, and Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in Limestone County, Alabama. The SEIS also evaluates the use of MOX fuel at generic commercial reactors at generic sites.
TVA is a cooperating agency for the SEIS and does not have a Preferred Alternative at this time regarding whether to pursue the use of MOX fuel in TVA reactors and which reactors might be used for this purpose. TVA will only pursue the use of MOX fuels in its reactors if it is determined to be operationally and environmentally safe, economically beneficial to TVA customers, and licensed for use by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The full text of the Final SEIS as well as related documents are available on the DOE website.
For further information on surplus plutonium disposition as well as DOE contact information, visit the DOE website.
For further information on TVA’s participation as a cooperating agency on the SEIS, contact: Charles P. Nicholson, Tennessee Valley Authority, 400 W. Summit Hill Drive, WT 11D, Knoxville, Tennessee 37902. E-mail: [email protected]. Phone: 865-632-3582.
More information on this environmental review can be obtained from: