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Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility Licensing

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) signed a contract with Duke COGEMA Stone & Webster (DCS), now called Shaw AREVA MOX Services (MOX Services or the applicant), to design, build, and operate a Mixed Oxide1 (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF). On February 28, 2001, the applicant submitted a request to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to construct a MFFF on the DOE’s Savannah River Site (SRS) near Aiken, South Carolina. On March 30, 2005, the Commission issued the construction authorization (CA). Two years after the CA was issued the construction started.

In 2006, MOX Services submitted a license application to possess and use byproduct and special nuclear material (SNM) at the MFFF. If the facility is eventually authorized to use and possess SNM, it will take surplus weapon-grade plutonium, remove impurities, and mix it with uranium oxide to form MOX fuel pellets for reactor fuel assemblies. These assemblies will be irradiated in commercial nuclear power reactors. Following irradiation, the resulting spent fuel would contain plutonium in a form less usable for nuclear weapons.

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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). MFFF is regulated under Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR) Part 70, Domestic Licensing of Special Nuclear Material. Before a use and possession license is issued, the NRC staff needs to review the license application and verify that the construction of the Principal Structures, Systems and Components (PSSCs) is in accordance with the application. 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 and reviewed by the NRC staff.

Regulations. NRC's regulations are found in 10 CFR, Energy. 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.

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Licensing Information

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licensing program for the MOX fuel fabrication facility (MFFF) is being performed in two stages. The first stage, which has already been completed, consisted of the review and evaluation of the construction authorization request (CAR). The applicant submitted a description and safety assessment, detailing the design bases of the principal structures, systems and components (PSSCs) of the facility, including provisions for protection against natural phenomena and the consequences of potential accidents. 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. The notice also announced an opportunity for a hearing on the application.

On March 30, 2005, the NRC issued a Construction Authorization (CA) to the applicant 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. 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. The CA was updated on June 12, 2008, to reflect revisions to the MFFF Quality Assurance Program. On August 8, 2011, the CA was further updated to add reference to the design basis contained in the License Application and to remove a condition related to safety function of the Emergency Control Room air conditioning system.

The second stage of the licensing process involves the NRC staff review of a license application (LA) to possess and use special nuclear material at the MFFF and an Integrated Safety Analysis (ISA) Summary. On September 27, 2006, MOX Services submitted a license application and the ISA Summary for a mixed oxide fuel fabrication facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. On December 2010, the NRC published its Final Safety Evaluation Report (SER) for the License Application to possess and use radioactive material at the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility. The report, which has been redacted to remove security related and proprietary information, documents the NRC staff’s technical safety review of MOX Services’ operating license application of the facility. It does not represent a decision to issue the license. A license will be issued only if the NRC verifies that the principal structures, systems and components has been properly constructed by the applicant. That stage is expected to be several years away. The SER was reviewed by the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) and approved for publication in September 2010.

Additional information regarding the MOX licensing process can be found in the URLs listed below:

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Public Involvement

Information for the meetings concerning the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) licensing process are available on 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.

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MOX Construction Inspection Program


1 Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX Fuel) is a blend of uranium and plutonium oxides.
Page Last Reviewed/Updated Friday, February 07, 2014