In the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA), the United States and Russia have each committed to dispose of 34 metric tons of surplus weapons-grade plutonium. To implement the PMDA, the United States has been building a mixed oxide (MOX) fuel fabrication facility to convert the plutonium into nuclear reactor fuel. However, the estimated lifecycle cost of the MOX program has increased to approximately $30 billion, prompting the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to assess alternatives to the MOX approach.
NNSA recently released a report evaluating four options other than the MOX program. The downblending and disposal option is assessed favorably in terms of cost, timeliness, and technical risk, but it presents a new set of challenges. The option – mixing plutonium oxide with an inert material and disposal in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) – would require modifying the PMDA and increasing the statutory capacity of WIPP (operations at WIPP are currently uncertain due to the February accidental radiation release).
A blog post providing a brief summary of the storied history of plutonium dispostion can be found here.
On June 4, the Center for Science, Technology and Security Policy of the American Association for the Advancement of Science is convening a breakfast panel to discuss the downblending and disposal option for plutonium disposition in light of the US-Russia PMDA. Discussion will follow presentations by Dr. Edwin Lyman, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Miles Pomper, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.
Dr. Edwin Lyman, Union of Concerned Scientists
Dr. Edwin Lyman is a Senior Scientist in the Global Security Program at the Union of Concern Scientists (UCS). His work focuses on nuclear proliferation, nuclear terrorism, nuclear safety, and nuclear security. He is a member of the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management and a co-author of the book “Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster,” which was published in February by the New Press. He holds a doctorate degree in physics from Cornell University.
Miles Pomper, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies
Miles Pomper is a Senior Research Associate in the Washington DC office of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS). His work focuses on nuclear energy, nuclear nonproliferation, nuclear security, and nuclear arms control. He is also a co-chair of the Fissile Materials Working Group. He holds a master's degree in international affairs from Columbia University and a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University.
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
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