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Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication

Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility Licensing

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At the end of the Cold War, the United States and the former Soviet Union began dismantling nuclear weapons. As a result, both countries were left with large quantities of surplus weapons-grade highly enriched uranium and plutonium. In September 2000, the United States and Russia signed an agreement to reduce their respective stockpiles of surplus plutonium.

The Department of Energy (DOE) evaluated the different strategies to dispose of this material. Under DOE’s Surplus Disposition Program, DOE plans to convert approximately 34 metric tons of surplus weapons-grade plutonium into mixed oxide (MOX) fuel to be used in commercial nuclear power plants. As part of the program, DOE selected Duke Cogema Stone & Webster (DCS) as the contractor to design, construct, and operate a facility to fabricate the MOX fuel.

Regulations and Legislation

Legislation. In 1999, Congress passed the Strom Thurmond National Defense Authorization Act, providing the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) with the regulatory and licensing authority over DOE’s proposed MOX fuel fabrication facility (MFFF).

The NRC anticipates licensing the proposed MFFF under the existing regulations. Under the applicable regulations, authorization must be received before construction and a license before operation. In addition, the construction and operation of a MFFF is considered a major Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment for the purposes of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. Therefore, an Environmental Impact Statement would need to be prepared for this type of facility.

Regulations. NRC's regulations are found in Chapter I of Title 10, "Energy," of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Chapter I is divided into Parts 1 through 199. See the following principal parts governing the licensing and operation of a nuclear facility and SECY-00-0111, Staff Requirements Memorandum from Commission on the Final Rule to Amend 10 CFR Part 70.

  • Part 20 - Standards for Protection Against Radiation
  • Part 30 - Domestic Licensing of Byproduct Material
  • Part 40 - Domestic Licensing of Source Material
  • Part 51 - Environmental Protection Regulations
  • Part 70 - Domestic Licensing of Special Nuclear Material
  • Part 73 - Physical Protection of Plants and Materials
  • Part 74 - Material Control and Accounting for Special Nuclear Material

Also, see Fuel Cycle Facilities Regulations, Guidance, and Communications for additional information related to licensing the MFFF.

Licensing Information

The NRC process for licensing an MFFF would be generally the same as that for licensing other fuel cycle facilities. On April 18, 2001, the NRC published a notice in the Federal Register announcing that the NRC had accepted an application for authority to construct a MFFF from DCS. The notice also announced an opportunity for a hearing on the DCS application.

On March 30, 2005, the NRC issued a Construction Authorization PDF Icon (CA) to DCS for a MFFF to be located at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. The NRC staff's technical basis for issuing the CA is set forth in NUREG-1821, "Final Safety Evaluation Report on the Construction Authorization Request for the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site, South Carolina.” The results of the staff's environmental review related to the issuance of the CA are contained in NUREG-1767, "Environmental Impact Statement on the Construction and Operation of a Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site, South Carolina - Final Report."

In a letter dated October 25, 2006, DCS requested the NRC's consent to change the corporate name for the CA for the MFFF to Shaw AREVA MOX Services (MOX Services). The NRC reviewed the request for a name change and issued an amendment to the CA to reflect the new corporate name on November 30, 2006.

On September 27, 2006, MOX Services submitted a license application (LA) and Integrated Safety Analysis Summary for a mixed oxide fuel fabrication facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. In the process of performing the Acceptance/Acknowledgment review of the LA, the staff identified some parts of the submittal that required some modification in order to complete the initial review.

The preliminary review of the license application indicated that much of the information required by Part 70 (in particular 10 CFR 70.22 and 10 CFR Part 70, Subpart H) to be in an operating license application was contained in the Integrated Safety Analyses (ISA) Summary. The staff also believed that some of the information that was identified to be withheld as proprietary should be publicly available. A revised LA was submitted to the NRC on November 16, 2006. The NRC completed its Acceptance/Acknowledgment review and sent a letter to MOX Services on December 20, 2006, indicating that the application was acceptable for docketing (reference ML063530612). For more information, see the following pages:

Public Involvement

Information for the meetings on the following pages concerning an MFFF are available at this Web site or in the Agencywide Documents Access and Management System (ADAMS) if an accession number is given. For upcoming meetings, see also our Public Meeting Schedule.

MOX Construction Inspection Program

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008