Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League

BREDL Southern Anti-Plutonium Campaign

The United States Department of Energy plans to reprocess nuclear warhead plutonium into commercial nuclear power reactor fuel. The site for fabrication of the fuel, also called MOX, is Savannah River in South Carolina. Weapons-grade plutonium now stored at military sites across the nation would be transported to the southeast, made into fuel, and shipped back out to Duke Power reactors near Charlotte, North Carolina and Rock Hill, South Carolina.

Group Calls for Investigation of Plutonium Fuel Contractor

Oct. 10, 2012: Today environmental groups in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee called for a government investigation of the principal federal contractor for the Department of Energy’s plutonium fuel program. In comments sent to the US Department of Energy, the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League detailed the risks to public health and national security posed by the plutonium fuel program and the actions of Areva, the French government conglomerate which is part of Shaw Areva Mox Services. The group cited a legal dispute between Areva and the Tennessee Valley Authority over a $76 million charge for fuel services. The costs were later reduced to $26 million but without explanation.

Read BREDL Press Release | Oct. 10 Letter to DOE | Oct. 10 Comments to DOE

BREDL comments on the Surplus Plutonium Disposition SEIS

Sept. 4, 2012: For over a decade, the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League has opposed the reprocessing of plutonium as civilian nuclear power fuel because it presents unsupportable risks to public safety and the environment.

Read BREDL's comments from BREDL's Charles Utley

BREDL comments on the Surplus Plutonium Disposition SEIS

March 12, 2012: BREDL opposes the US Dept. of Energy’s proposed expansion of plutonium reprocessing facilities either at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina or at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the proposed use of plutonium fuel at commercial electric power plants operated by TVA and other utilities.

Read BREDL's Comments

BREDL Continues its Decade-long Campaign to Halt Plutonium Fuel

Aug. 5, 2010: Tennessee Valley Authority’s Browns Ferry and Sequoyah nuclear power plants are identified in the July 19th Department of Energy Notice of Intent as the reactors designated for plutonium fuel use. The handling of special strategic nuclear materials requires the highest safety and security procedures. But the identified problems with fire protection, over-worked plant employees and site security lapses at these TVA power plants should eliminate them from further consideration by the DOE for plutonium disposition.

Read BREDL Comments to U.S. Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration

Statement to the Review Conference of the Parties to the
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
Delivered May 11, 2005 at the United Nations in New York.

May 9, 2005: Prevent the Reprocessing of Military Plutonium Wastes into Fuel. Statement to the Review Conference of the Parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Delivered May 11, 2005 at the United Nations in New York. Excerpt:

We hereby stand opposed the reprocessing of plutonium for fuel because it presents unsupportable risks to public safety and the environment, and undermines the goal of nuclear non-proliferation.  The circulation of plutonium fuel in the commercial sector would increase the risk of diversion. There is no way to ensure that plutonium reprocessing facilities for electric power will not be turned to military use.  We submit that a global movement for a world without nuclear weapons must also halt the drive for plutonium power.

Anti-Plutonium Campaign Wins Concessions

On April 18, 2005 the U.S Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued the public version of its final decision on the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League’s legal challenge to Duke Power’s request to test plutonium fuel at the Catawba nuclear power station. In its application to amend its operating license, Duke requested exemptions from post-9/11 federal requirements designed to protect nuclear materials from theft or sabotage. The judges granted the exemption but  imposed four conditions that Duke is required to meet before it can receive the fuel at Catawba. They are:

1. Duke shall modify its security procedures regarding plutonium fuel.

2. Duke must demonstrate its ability to counter an attempt at theft of plutonium fuel by undertaking tabletop and force-on-force exercises.

3. Duke must upgrade its security monitoring procedures during acceptance of plutonium fuel.

4. Duke must establish and have in place all procedures identified during the intervention hearings for accepting the plutonium fuel. These measures include coordinating transfer of plutonium fuel from DOE, coordinating with local law enforcement agencies and ensuring that armed responders are dedicated to the protection of the plutonium fuel.

The plutonium fuel tests necessitate the insertion of four lead test assemblies (LTA) into the Catawba reactor for at least two fuel cycles. Duke sought to exempt Catawba Nuclear Power Station from the regulations for Category I facilities which have special strategic nuclear materials such as 2 kilograms or more of plutonium. Duke’s Catawba nuclear station would contain 80 kilograms of plutonium during the proposed plutonium fuel tests.

Commercial nuclear fuel typically contains the oxide form of uranium. The nuclear industry’s term for this novel fuel is “MOX” because it is a mixed oxide containing both uranium and plutonium. But the primary fissile isotope of the fuel is plutonium, so we use the more accurate term “plutonium fuel.”

Our case required access to sensitive documents, Safe Guards Information, making many of the legal proceedings closed to the public. Relevant information was provided only to our technical consultant, Dr. Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists, and to our attorney Diane Curran, of Harmon Curran Spielberg and Eisenberg, who complied with all security requirements. The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board’s ruling, originally issued on March 10th, required additional review and approval before it could be released to the public in censored format on April 18th. The redacted version is freely available and is posted on our website.

More info:
Read ASLBP decision (Public Redacted Version)
BREDL Report:
"Anti-Plutonium Campaign Wins Concessions"