Saturday, August 22, 2015

To MOX or Not to MOX

The Santa Fe New Mexican published an article today by Patrick Malone describing a recent Union of Concerned Scientists report entitled, "DOE Study Concludes MOX Facility More Expensive, Much Riskier than Disposing of Surplus Plutonium at New Mexico Repository." In this article, related concerns of some New Mexico citizens regarding the WIPP site were also discussed.

Considering the by now well-known options of whether to MOX or to bury, one can say with confidence that both the technical and political complexities of either option are large. However, an important part of the problem of changing now from MOX to burial is that the agreement previously arrived at with the Russians would have to be breached or renegotiated; namely, according to that agreement, Pu disposition must be irreversible, and underground storage, even with so-called down-blending, would not be so.

Moreover, it seems to me peculiar that the anti-nuclear groups, in their apparent zeal to thwart an advantage to the nuclear power industry provided by a continuation of the MOX program, would be willing  to promote underground burial of Pu when underground burial itself has two clear disadvantages: 1) burial, even of down-blended material, is reversible so that the Pu could be resurrected and reconstituted at some future time, perhaps for use in some future nuclear war; 2) burial of any radioactive and/or toxic chemical waste involves environmental hazards.

It's hard for me to understand their view but, to some, it seems that nuclear power is a clearer threat than nuclear weaponry.