You Can Help Nix MOX
BY RUTH THOMAS
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is coming to the Carolinas to ease our fears. The agency says there is no problem with the Department of Energy’s plan to transport the nation’s "surplus" weapons-grade plutonium to the Savannah River Site (SRS) to convert it from bombs to nuclear reactor fuel (called MOX).
Only problem is that data shows MOX plutonium fuel both increases the chance of nuclear reactor accidents and as much as doubles the accident consequences measured in fatal cancers.
On July 12 and 13, the NRC is holding public meetings to explain the government’s plan to mix plutonium from nuclear bombs with uranium to make experimental fuel for Duke Power’s reactors in the Carolinas (two Catawba reactors near Rock Hill and two McGuire reactors near Charlotte).
MOX fuel has been tried in Europe, but never using weapons-grade plutonium. The NRC will likely tell us we have nothing to fear. But we have to ask what has changed since the 1970s, when plans to use plutonium from reactor waste as an energy source were scrapped because of safety considerations?
If anything, there is even more reason for concern today. New information shows that plutonium is more dangerous than previously thought. Once in the soil, plutonium migrates into drinking water sources at a rate thousands of times faster than predicted.
What’s more, plutonium from nuclear weapons has never been used as a reactor fuel. Plutonium is harder to control than uranium. And there will be no full-scale test of MOX before the fuel is loaded into local reactors. What’s more, taxpayers will fund Duke’s use of MOX fuel. Duke will then sell the electricity to the same taxpayers.
The government and the nuclear industry have a dismal history regarding plutonium. Yet there is loud support from local vested interests around SRS, where workers and community leaders subscribe to the "jobs at any cost" philosophy.
Concerns they choose to ignore include:
1. To date, there is no viable solution to dealing with nuclear waste.
2. Communities near reactors, waste dumps, nuclear laundries, uranium mines and processing sites are all at risk.
3. Plutonium fuel would accelerate the radiation stresses on metal and the aging process of reactors.
4. The danger posed by the loss of secret nuclear information and nuclear materials themselves.
5. Reactors continue to operate even though most of them currently violate NRC regulations.
If you trust that the NRC, DOE, Duke, Westinghouse are looking out for your best interest, then stay away from these meetings. Don’t write letters. Do keep your mouth shut. Don’t complain about the process.
Otherwise... see you on July 12 and 13.
Ruth Thomas is a Columbia activist with Environmentalists, Inc. For more information, contact her at in Columbia at 803-782-3000 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Or contact Mary Olson, Nuclear Information and Resource Service Southeast, P.O. Box 5647, Augusta, GA 30916. Her telephone is 706-722-8968 and email is email@example.com.