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Plutonium Disposition Logo
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Getting Rid of Military Plutonium
Using plutonium from bombs as fuel for nuclear power reactors
invites theft by terrorists and outlaw states. How to stop this
latest attempt at plutonium commerce: Directly dispose of
plutonium by burying it with nuclear waste deep in the earth.

PLUTONIUM DISPOSAL

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Overview

Plans to dispose of plutonium from surplus nuclear weapons by turning it over to local utility companies for use as fuel in nuclear power plants presents grave dangers to the public. The Nuclear Control Institute seeks to increase public understanding of these dangers.

Converting warhead plutonium into fuel for generating electricity would stimulate commerce in this extremely toxic, weapons-usable material. Fifteen pounds of plutonium is enough for one atomic bomb. A few specks of it inhaled into the lungs causes cancer. Commerce in many tons of plutonium raises risks of theft by terrorists and outlaw states, and of aggravating the consequences of reactor accidents.

For 20 years, the United States has followed the prudent policy of not allowing plutonium to be used as fuel in nuclear power plants, and of discouraging its use in other countries. But while the United States held the line against plutonium, other governments like Britain, France, Japan and Russia began building enormous industries to extract hundreds of tons of plutonium from the wastes produced by nuclear power reactors and to turn this plutonium into fuel.

U.S. policy calls for burying these plutonium-laden wastes deep in the earth. This has proved to be the right choice. The plutonium industries in other countries have been held in check by prohibitively high costs of producing and protecting plutonium, and utility companies everywhere are reluctant to use such dangerous fuel.

But now U.S. anti-plutonium policy is at risk of being overturned by foreign plutonium interests.

The cold war is over, and the United States and Russia must safely dispose of some 100 tons of plutonium now being recovered from their dismantled nuclear warheads. The goal is to promote disarmament by converting warhead plutonium into a form that would be very difficult to convert back into nuclear weapons.

But the nuclear bureaucracies and industries of both countries, along with those of Britain, France and Japan, are seizing the opportunity to turn this plutonium into commercial fuel rather than dispose of it as waste. Their approach is to convert the plutonium metal cores of weapons (called "pits") into a powder, mix it with uranium, and fabricate so-called mixed-oxide ("MOX") fuel for use in civilian nuclear-power reactors.

The MOX approach would take decades to complete, require billions of taxpayers dollars in subsidies to electrical utility companies, and promote plutonium fuel industries in other countries. MOX use, therefore, has a large and powerful constituency that exaggerates the benefits and conceals the dangers of using plutonium as fuel to generate electricity.

The Nuclear Control Institute supports the alternative approach of directly disposing of the plutonium as waste. This approach "immobilizes" plutonium by combining it with highly radioactive waste in the form of glass logs (a method called "vitrification"). The glass logs are sealed in stainless steel cylinders and stored for eventual deep burial in a nuclear waste repository.

A fair comparison of the two disposal options shows that immobilization is far less costly than the MOX approach, could be started and completed more rapidly, and poses far fewer security, health and environmental risks.

Look below for information that describes the many risks of MOX and the clear benefits of immobilization.

NCI Comments on NRC's Revised Draft EIS for MOX Fuel Fabrication Plant (Dr. Edwin Lyman, NCI President, August 30, 2002) 

G-8 Nations to Waste Billions on Russian Plutonium Fuel (NCI Press Release, June 27, 2002)

Safeguards Concerns About Proposed U.S. Plutonium Fuel Plant (Dr. Edwin Lyman, NCI President, Presentation at the 43rd Annual Meeting of the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management (INMM), Orlando, FL, June 24, 2002)

U.S.-Russia Nuclear Agreement Does Not Eliminate Warheads Or Provide For Effective Plutonium Disposal (NCI Press Release, May 14, 2002)

NCI Condemns Security Breach at Duke Power Reactor
  
NCI Press Release May 10
  
NCI letter to NRC Chairman Meserve May 21
   NRC Response: Commissioner Meserve   July 22   
   NRC Incident Report April 9  (PDF, 450kb)
  
Oconee nuke plant had worker with criminal record Greenville News May 10

NRC to NCI: Revised MOX Environmental Impact Statement Is Warranted  April 26
  
Additional required information for MOX fuel plant is consistent with what    NCI is demanding of DOE, NRC says
  
Federal Register Notice  (PDF format)

DOE Officially Abandons Direct Disposal of Military Plutonium Without Conducting Environmental Review
  
NCI Press Release April 19
  
DOE Federal Register Notice April 19   (PDF format)

NCI Condemns DOE Decision to Ship Plutonium to Savannah River over South Carolina's Opposition (NCI Press Release, April 16, 2002)

NCI to Energy Secretary Abraham on Plutonium Disposition
Make Sure Disposal of U.S. & Russian Plutonium Proceeds at Same Pace  (NCI Letter to Sec. Abraham, March 27, 2002)
DOE Reply to NCI (May 17, 2002)

DOE Report Reveals New Plutonium Disposition Hurdles (NCI Press Release, February 25, 2002)

The Revised Plutonium Disposition Strategy: DOEs House Of Cards (Dr. Edwin Lyman, NCI, February 22, 2002)

Disposition of Surplus Defense Plutonium at Savannah River Site (DOE Report to Congress, February 15, 2002)   (PDF file, 340kb)

Safety and Security of Russian Nuclear Facilities & Military Forces (NIC Intelligence Report to Congress, February 2002)

Request for "Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement" (SEIS) on Plutonium Disposition (NCI Letter to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, February 8, 2002)

Supplemental EIS Legally Mandated Due to "Substantial Changes" in Plutonium Disposition Program  (NCI Letter to Gen. Gordon, DOE NNSA Administrator, March 8, 2002)

DOE "Supplemental Analysis" on Plutonium Storage in K-Reactor at the Savannah River Site Reveals Plan for Indefinite Plutonium Storage in S. Carolina (DOE, February 2002)

U.S. Plan to Use Bomb Plutonium as Nuclear Fuel Faces Enormous Legal, Economic and Safety Hurdles (NCI Press Release, January 23, 2002)

U.S. Settles on Plan to Recycle Plutonium (New York Times, January 23, 2002)

DOE Press Release, January 23, 2002

U.S. MOX Plant Challenge Accepted by NRC Licensing Board (NCI Press Release, December 13, 2001)

Congress Urged To Restore Full Funding To Dispose Of Surplus Weapons Plutonium As Waste  (August 30, 2001)

The Future of Immobilization Under the U.S.-Russian Plutonium Disposition Agreement (Dr. Edwin Lyman, NCI Scientific Director, Paper Presented at the 42nd Annual Meeting of the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management, Indian Wells, CA, July 18, 2001)

NCI, IEER: NRC Should Hold Formal Hearings on Duke Cogema Stone Webster Application for Authorization to Construct a MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility   (Nuclear Control Institute and Institute for Energy & Environmental Research, Letter to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, March 9, 2001)

NCI, NGOs to CNSC: Suspend Plans to Test Warhead-Plutonium MOX Fuel for CANDU Reactors (Letter from NCI, BREDL and 19 other public-interest groups to Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, January 23, 2001)

U.S. National Academy of Sciences Report Sounds Death Knell for Use of Plutonium Fuel (MOX) in CANDU Reactors    (NCI Press Release, December 6, 2000)

Panelists Warn of MOX Fuel Hazards    (Rock Hill SC Herald)

The Safety Risks of Using Mixed-Oxide Fuels in Russias VVER-1000 Reactors: An Overview

Dr. Edwin Lyman, NCI Scientific Director, May 2000.
Now available in Russian
English Language Version
Russian Language Version (Adobe Acrobat PDF file)
If you don't have an Adobe Acrobat reader, you can download it free at http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html

NRC Document Reveals Vulnerable Containment Buildings at Duke Power Reactors Set to Use Plutonium Fuel (MOX)

NCI Press Release, October 19, 2000
Plutonium Fuel and Ice Condenser Reactors: A Dangerous Combination (Dr. Edwin Lyman, NCI Scientific Director, October 19, 2000)
NCI Letter to Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, October 18, 2000
NCI Letter to NRC Chairman Richard Meserve, October 18, 2000
NRC Reply to NCI, November 14, 2000
NCI Letter to Duke Energy CEO Richard Priory, October 18, 2000
Duke Power's Plan to Use Bomb-Plutonium Fuel Conceals Hidden Dangers and Costs (Steven Dolley, NCI Research Director, October 18, 2000)
Chronology of Warhead Plutonium Disposition Efforts
Concerns Raised About Nuclear Plants' Design (Bruce Henderson, Charlotte Observer, October 19, 2000)
Risk Factors Multiply at Carolina's Nuclear Power Plants (Environmental News Service, October 20, 2000)

Ground Zero
Article on weapons-plutonium disposition by Louis Jacobson, Government Executive Magazine, September 2000

German Bundestag Should Not Allow Hanau MOX-Fuel Plant to be Exported to Russia
Letter from NCI to Several SPD Members of the German Bundestag, September 12, 2000

U.S.-Russia Weapons Plutonium Disposal Agreement is "Premature and Dangerous," Says NCI
NCI Press Release, September 1, 2000

News Coverage of U.S.-Russia Agreement

DC-Based Disarmament Group Raps Plutonium-Recycling Deal   (CNN)
Russia, USA Sign Deal to Destroy Plutonium     (Reuters)
Gore, Russia Sign Plutonium Accord     (AP)
Nuclear Disposal Deal Struck    (Augusta Chronicle)

Comments on the "Emergency Response Assistance Plan" for the MOX Fuel Shipment from Moscow to Chalk River
Dr. Edwin Lyman, NCI Scientific Director, August 25, 2000

Disposal of Weapons Plutonium in the U.S. and Russia: Issues and Options for the G-8
Steven Dolley, NCI Research Director, Issue Brief for G-8 Okinawa Summit, July 17, 2000

Plan to Turn Weapons Plutonium into Fuel is a Bad Bargain for the U.S. and Russia
NCI Press Release, June 2, 2000

  Summit Documentation on U.S.-Russian Plutonium Disposition Agreement
White House Documents, June 4, 2000

 The Safety Risks of Using Mixed-Oxide Fuels in Russias VVER-1000 Reactors: An Overview
Report by Dr. Edwin Lyman, NCI Scientific Director, May 20, 2000

German Bundestag Should Not Allow Hanau MOX-Fuel Plant to be Exported to Russia
Letter from NCI to Green Members of the German Bundestag, May 19, 2000


Virginia Power Quits Plutonium "MOX" Fuel Program

NCI Press Release, April 7, 2000
NCI Letter to Virginia Power, April 7, 2000
NCI Fact Sheet on Virginia Power and MOX Fuel, April 7, 2000
Press Stories on Virginia Power MOX Decision

Duke Energy Shareholders Challenge Plan to Use Warhead Plutonium as Fuel in Reactors

NCI Press Release, March 29, 2000
Duke Shareholders' Anti-MOX Resolution
NCI Letter to Duke Shareholders, March 24, 2000
"Duke Power's Plan to Use Bomb-Plutonium Fuel Conceals Hidden Dangers and Costs," Steven Dolley, NCI Research Director, NCI Fact Sheet, March 8, 2000

NCI and IEER: NRC's MOX Fuel Plant Review Plan Must Include Quality-Control Criteria
Letter from Edwin Lyman, NCI Scientific Director, and Arjun Makhijani, president, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, to US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, March 27, 2000

US-Russian Deal to Halt Reprocessing: Overdue and Underachieving

NCI Press Release, February 8, 2000
Department of Energy Factsheet, February 7, 2000
Judith Miller, "Moscow Takes Steps to Ease US Fears on Plutonium Use," New York Times, February 7, 2000
Michael Dobbs, "US_Russian Moratorium Proposed on Plutonium Production," Washington Post, February 8, 2000

Paducah Plutonium Contamination: Lessons for DOE's Plutonium Disposition Program
Paul Leventhal, NCI President, letter to the editor, Washington Post, August 29, 1999

Plutonium Exposures at DOE Plant Provide Fair Warning of Dangers Ahead in New Plan to Turn Plutonium into Fuel

NCI Press Release, August 8, 1999
Washington Post story on Paducah plant worker exposure to plutonium (August 8, 1999)

NCI to NRC: DOE License to Export Pu Technology to Russia Should Be Denied
Letter from NCI to Nuclear Regulatory Commission, June 30, 1999

NCI Comments on DOE's Supplement to the Surplus Plutonium Disposition Draft Environmental Impact Statement
Comments by Dr. Edwin Lyman, NCI Scientific Director, June 28, 1999

Jesse Helms Nixes MOX
Excerpt from Statement by Senator Jesse Helms, chairman, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, April 27, 1999

Groups to Energy Secretary Richardson: DOE Must Hold NEPA Hearings in MOX Reactor Communities
Letter from NCI and 7 other public-interest groups to Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, April 21, 1999

NCI Condemns "Wasteful and Reckless" Plutonium Fuel Deal
NCI Press Release, March 22, 1999

U.S. Plan to Use Warhead Plutonium as Fuel in Power Reactors Poses Significant Cancer Risks to Public, New Report Concludes

NCI Press Release, January 21, 1999
"Public Health Consequences of Substituting Mixed-Oxide for Uranium Fuel in Light-Water Reactors," Dr. Edwin Lyman, Scientific Director, NCI, January 1999 (Executive Summa
MOX Report Charts

* Latent Cancer Fatalities in Severe Accident (16 kb GIF file)
* Average Risk Within 10 Miles (10 kb GIF file)

"Public Health Consequences of MOX Fuel: NRC Reactor Licensing Issues," NCI Background Paper, January 21, 1999
Maps of Weapons Plutonium MOX Fuel Reactor Sites

* North Anna 1 & 2 (Virginia Power)
* McGuire 1 & 2 (Duke Power)
* Catawba 1 & 2 (Duke Power)

Groups to Holgate: DOE Economic Analysis Must Include All Relevant Costs of Plutonium Disposition in Russia

Letter from NCI and eight other public-interest groups to Laura Holgate, director, Office of Fissile Materials Disposition, DOE, November 4, 1998
Reply from Laura Holgate, December 16, 1998

DOE Reprocessing Policy and the Irreversibility of Plutonium Disposition
Dr. Edwin Lyman, NCI Scientific Director, Paper Presented to the American Nuclear Society, Charleston, SC, September 9, 1998

Summit Agreement to Use Weapons Plutonium in Reactors is a "Nuclear Black Hole," NCI Warns
NCI Press Release, September 1, 1998

Reaching for a Common Ground
Speech by Paul Leventhal, NCI President, presented to the International Policy Forum on Management & Disposition of Nuclear Weapons Material, Bethesda, Maryland, March 24, 1998

The Case Against Using Military Plutonium as Civilian Fuel
Paul Leventhal, Remarks to a Symposium on "Nuclear Materials: A Clear and Present Danger," The American News Women's Club, March 12, 1998

NGOs Speak Out Against BNFL's Sellafield MOX Plant

Letter from Groups to UK Environment Ministry
Press Release, March 12, 1998

A Pox on MOX
Paul Leventhal, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March/April 1998

Better Plutonium Plan
Paul Leventhal & Edwin Lyman, letter to the editor, New York Times, February 5, 1998

Additional NCI Comments on Draft Request for Proposal for MOX Plutonium Disposition
NCI Letter to DOE, January 16, 1998

Comments on the Department of Energy's Draft Request for Proposals for MOX Fuel Fabrication and Reactor Irradiation Services
NCI comments to DOE, December 5, 1997

NCI Comments on Draft EA for the Parallex Project
(CANDU MOX Fuel Exports to Canada)

Paul Leventhal and Steven Dolley, NCI, September 17, 1997

NCI Supplemental Comments on DOE's MOX Program Acquisition Strategy
Paul Leventhal and Steven Dolley, NCI, September 12, 1997

Comments on the Shipment of MOX Fuel to Canada
Paul Leventhal, NCI president, September 11, 1997

A Safer Plutonium Plan
Edwin Lyman, scientific director, NCI, letter to the editor, Washington Post, August 24, 1997

Comments of the Nuclear Control Institute on DOE's MOX Program Acquisition Strategy
Paul Leventhal and Steven Dolley, NCI, August 12, 1997

Comments on the Department of Energy's Program Acquisition Strategy for Weapons Plutonium Mixed-Oxide (MOX) Fuel
Paul Leventhal, president, NCI, July 22, 1997

Comments on the Scope of the Department of Energy's Surplus Plutonium Disposition Environmental Impact Statement
Steven Dolley, research director, NCI, July 18, 1997

Don't Delay R&D on Immobilization of Warhead Plutonium, Groups Urge DOE
NCI/NRDC/ERF Letter to Energy Secretary Pea, July 1, 1997

NCI, 55 Other Public-Interest Groups Launch Campaign to Block Commonwealth Edison MOX Fuel Plans

Press Release, May 29, 1997
Warhead Plutonium Disposition and Commonwealth Edison
    Steven Dolley, Research Director, NCI, May 27, 1997
Letter to James O'Connor, CEO, Commonwealth Edison, from NCI and 18 Other Public-Interest Groups, May 19, 1997
Letter to Shirley Jackson, Chair, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, from NCI and 54 Other Public-Interest Groups, May 20, 1997
Shirley Jackson's Response, July 28, 1997
Letter to Federico Pea, Secretary of Energy, from NCI and 54 Other Public-Interest Groups, May 20, 1997
Federico Pea's Response, July 10, 1997

The Plutonium Industry and the Consequences for a Comprehensive Fissile Materials Cutoff
Paul Leventhal, president, NCI, "Working Towards a Nuclear-Free World," Oxford Research Group Seminar, in cooperation with Chinese People's Association for Peace & Disarmament, Oxford University, Oxford, England, April 28, 1997

NCI Fact Sheets on Warhead Plutonium Disposition

Questions and Answers on Warhead Plutonium Disposition
Ploughshares or Swords?: Why the MOX Approach to Plutonium Disposition is Bad for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control
Burn It or Bury It?: Burying Warhead Plutonium as Waste is Safer and Cheaper than Burning It in Reactors
Using Warhead Plutonium as Reactor Fuel Does Not Make It Unusable in Nuclear Bombs

Bury the Stuff
Paul Leventhal, president, and Edwin Lyman, scientific director, NCI, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March/April 1997

MOX Disposal of Surplus Weapons Plutonium: Politically Expedient, But Does It Make Sense?
Paul Leventhal, president, Nuclear Control Institute, Presented at the Fourth International Policy Forum: Management and Disposition of Nuclear Weapons Materials, Lansdowne Conference Center, Lansdowne, Virginia, February 12, 1997

Statement of Paul Leventhal, president, Nuclear Control Institute, on Energy Secretary O'Leary's Record of Decision on Military Plutonium Disposition

NCI Press Release, January 14, 1997
DOE Record of Decision on Plutonium Disposition, January 14, 1997

Debate between Paul Leventhal, NCI, and Tom Grumbly, Department of Energy, on Plutonium Disposition
"Fox in Depth," Fox News Channel, December 16, 1996

Broad Opposition To DOE Proposal To Use Weapons Plutonium For Commercial Nuclear Power Reactor Fuel
Press Release, December 9, 1996

Comments on the U.S. Department of Energy's Draft Nonproliferation and Arms Control Assessment of Weapons-Usable Fissile Material Storage and Plutonium Disposition Alternatives
November 8, 1996

Pantex: A Plutonium Dump for the Nation?
Paul Leventhal, NCI, and Jim Adams, SECC, November 3, 1996

Energy Department Withdraws License Application for Export of Weapons Plutonium to Canada

Press Release, November 6, 1996
Letter from DOE to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), November 4, 19
Press Release, October 4, 1996
Petition to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), October 3, 1996
Group Letter to Secretary O'Leary, October 4, 1996

Public and Occupational Health and Safety Impacts of Plutonium Disposition Alternatives: Comments on the Department of Energy's Storage and Disposition of Weapons-Usable Fissile Materials Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement
Comments by Dr. Edwin Lyman, scientific director, NCI, revised October 9, 1996

Group Letter to Secretary Christopher: U.S. Should Propose Joint Plutonium Vitrification Project with Russia at G-7 Summit
Letter, October 3, 1996

Group Letter to Secretary O'Leary: Plutonium Disposition Cost Analysis Must Include Utility Subsidies
Letter, September 25, 1996

NCI Comments on DOE's Draft Outline for Nonproliferation Assessment of Plutonium Storage and Disposition
NCI Letter, August 13, 1996

Department of Energy's Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement Fails to Address Proliferation, Cost, and Safety Risks of Using Plutonium from Nuclear Warheads as Fuel in Nuclear Reactors

NCI Comments, June 7, 1996
Coalition Comments, June 7, 1996

DOE Extends Public Comment Period on Plutonium Disposition PEIS at Urging of Public-Interest Groups

Group Letter to DOE, April 29, 1996
DOE Response, May 6, 1996

"Perspectives on U.S. Options for Disposition of Excess Plutonium "
By Dr. Edwin S. Lyman, presented to the 3rd International Policy Forum: Management and Disposition of Nuclear Weapons Materials, Landsdowne, Virginia, March 21, 1996

"Stabilization and Immobilization of Military Plutonium: A Non-Proliferation Perspective"
By Paul Leventhal, presented to the U.S. Department of Energy Plutonium Stabilization and Immobilization Workshop, December 12, 1995

"A Perspective on the Proliferation Risks of Plutonium Mines"
by Dr. Edwin S. Lyman, presented to the U.S. Department of Energy Plutonium Stabilization and Immobilization Workshop, December 12, 1995; revised January 2, 1996

The MOX and Vitrification Options Compared: A Non-Proliferation Perspective
Paul Leventhal and Steven Dolley, Paper presented at the 5th International Conference on Radioactive Waste Management and Environmental Remediation: ICEM '95, Berlin, Germany, September 3-7, 1995