Second quarter of 2002

Representative puts questions to DOE about uncertainties in the US plutonium disposition plan

WISE-Paris, 14 June 2002

[Posted 15/06/2002]

The Democrat Congressman Edward Markey addressed on 4 June 2002 a 7-page letter to the US Department of Energy (DOE) concerning the surplus plutonium disposition program implemented in compliance with the agreement signed between the United States and Russia. Markey’s concern is that “the program for disposing of excess plutonium may be fraught with environmental, nonproliferation, technical, and budgetary uncertainty.” (1)

He particularly questions the depth of analysis by the DOE of the impact of proposed changes to the program. The US and Russia signed an agreement in September 2000 for a dual-track approach concerning the disposal of surplus weapons plutonium. According to the agreement, the US would dispose of 8.4 tons via immobilization and 25.6 tons as mixed plutonium-uranium oxide fuel (MOX). The agreement was substantially changed on 23 January 2002 into a single-track policy and the program was consequently transformed from the immobilization track into the processing of 6.4 tons of plutonium. (2) In the meantime, his letter stresses the lack of guarantees that Russia would implement its own plutonium disposition plan.

As a result of these changes DOE announced on 15 February 2002 that it would need two additional reactors to burn MOX fuel. Whereas both the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and Duke Cogema Stone & Webster announced, according to E. Markey, that “a new waste solidification plant may be needed to process the transuranic and uranium waste streams coming from the MOX plant.”

Calling this program a “dangerous scheme”, the Congressman states: “Processing plutonium into MOX fuel violates two fundamental taboos. It creates a commercial market for weapons-grade nuclear materials and it blurs the long-standing distinction between civilian and military applications of nuclear technology.”


  1. “Markey asks for environmental nonproliferation assessment of surplus plutonium disposition plan”,
  2. See :

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