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Savannah River: recycling of military-grade plutonium

The MOX project in the United States

In 2000, the United States and Russia signed a bilateral agreement stipulating that each country would commit to eliminating 34 metric tons of surplus military plutonium produced during the Cold War by recycling it as fuel for civil nuclear applications. In 2008, the Department of Energy made an agreement with a joint venture created by the AREVA and SHAW groups for the construction of a MOX fuel production plant.

Combating the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction

At the end of the Cold War, the United States and Russia began to cooperate to counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

In 2000, the 2 countries each arranged to dispose of 34 metric tons of surplus military-grade plutonium by recycling it as fuel for civil nuclear applications.

The decision was made to build one plant on the Savannah River site, in Aiken, South Carolina, as part of the American plutonium recycling program. MFFF is a plant where plutonium oxide is mixed with uranium oxide to manufacture MOX assembling.

AREVA expertise

The Shaw-AREVA MOX Services joint venture, LLC (formerly Duke COGEMA Stone & Webster, LLC) was selected by the Department of Energy (DoE) to design, construct, and operate the MFFF MOX production plant.

This new plant will: 

  • facilitate the fulfilment of the 2000 American-Russian agreement on military-grade plutonium disposal,
  • reduce the risk of plutonium proliferation,
  • reduce the long-term storage costs for the plutonium,
  • transform surplus military-grade plutonium into a commercial, civil asset (fuel).

MFFF relies on the expertise of the AREVA La Hague and MELOX plants. The construction of the plant, begun in 2007 and continues with a safety level extremely raised (more than 12 million hours worked without accident with stop)..

The 4 test assemblies produced using military-grade plutonium by AREVA in its Cadarache plant in 2004 and 2005 have now finished their second irradiation cycle in the American Catawba 1 reactor (North Carolina), operated by electrical engineering firm Duke Power. Performance analysis of these assemblies has been very favourable (Post-irradiation tests have made by Oak Ridge National Laboratory).

Shaw AREVA MOX Services, LLC

P.O. Box 7097
Aiken, SC 29804-7097 (USA)