Environment News Service

DEADLINE EXTENDED FOR COMMENTS ON MOX FUEL PLANT

WASHINGTON, DC, March 15, 2000 (ENS) - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has extended until March 27 the public comment period on its draft plan for the review of a possible future application for a mixed oxide (MOX) fuel fabrication facility. The original due date for comments was March 13. The Department of Energy (DOE) has announced that it plans to construct a MOX fuel plant at its Savannah River facility through a contract with the consortium of Duke Engineering & Services, COGEMA Inc., and Stone & Webster (known as DCS). DCS would build a MOX facility to convert surplus weapons grade plutonium from the DOE into fuel for commercial nuclear reactors. Commercial nuclear power plants in the U.S. now use uranium as fuel. The mixed oxide fuel is a combination of uranium and plutonium. Some environmentalists and nuclear activists believe it is too dangerous to burn MOX in commercial reactors that were not designed to use such fuel.

Under NRC regulations, DCS must obtain the agency's approval before beginning construction. NRC must decide if there is reasonable assurance that the MOX fuel plant will be constructed and operated in a manner that provides reasonable protection of worker health and safety, the public and the environment. The draft Standard Review Plan defines the criteria that NRC would use in reviewing the DCS application once it is submitted. The NRC’s draft plan is available at: http://www.nrc.gov/NRC/NUREGS/SR1718/index.html. Public comments will be accepted until March 27 at the same website.

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