PO Box 88 ~ Glendale Springs, North Carolina 28629 ~ Phone (336) 982-2691 ~ Fax (336) 982-2954 ~ Email:


June 11, 2002

Louis Zeller 336-982-2691
Don Moniak 336-982-2691
Jay Coghlan 505-989-7342


Today the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League released a report which reveals that the US Department of Energy’s plutonium fuel testing program would require tens of thousands of miles of national and international shipments of the radioactive material. Documents obtained by the group indicate that problems may force DOE to use British military plutonium instead of dismantled warheads from the United States to fabricate the first test fuel assemblies.

Both DOE and Duke Power, who’s McGuire and Catawba reactors are slated for plutonium fuel use, have claimed a “swords-into-plowshares” mission. Today’s report cast doubt on the goals, procedures, and legality of the entire program.

BREDL spokesman Lou Zeller said, “Today’s revelations show that the DOE has not been straightforward with the people of the United States or the world about the transportation of plutonium. Shipping enough plutonium for 50 nuclear bombs on the high seas is an invitation to disaster.”

Don Moniak, BREDL technical consultant and author of the report said, “The plutonium fuel program is filled with uncertainties and inherently flawed by political, technical, and regulatory complexities as well as excess transportation requirements.” Moniak continued, “The documents obtained by BREDL indicate that DOE’s frequent changes in this program involve continued violations of the National Environmental Policy Act’s provisions for timely public notification.”

BREDL reports that that the DOE’s plutonium fuel program would require:

The probable use of British military plutonium instead of U.S. surplus plutonium. A March 2001 foreign trip report by a program manager stated that there was lack of adequate material from the 34 metric tonnes declared excess by the US DOE;

The processing of plutonium oxide powder at Los Alamos National laboratory;

The transatlantic shipment of purified, deadly plutonium oxide powder from Los Alamos to Belgium for manufacturing plutonium fuel lead test assemblies involving a total of 115 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium enough to build more than 50 nuclear weapons;

The transatlantic shipment of four plutonium fuel assemblies from Belgium to McGuire Nuclear Power Plant near Charlotte, North Carolina for irradiation;

The shipment of plutonium fuel “scrap” produced during fabrication back to the U.S. to an undetermined or undisclosed location; and

The shipment of irradiated plutonium fuel assemblies to Oak Ridge National Laboratory for post irradiation exams.

Jay Coghlan, Director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, commented “It’s incredible that DOE has rejected immobilization in favor of an endless cycle of international shipments and the introduction of weapons-grade plutonium to the commercial sector.”

BREDL’s report indicates further problems with the plutonium fuel program including: the Los Alamos National Labs fabrication of test fuel assemblies is one year behind schedule, Duke Power is seeking exemptions and a license amendment from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Duke Cogema Stone and Webster withheld important information in documents it submitted to the NRC in support of its efforts to license plutonium (MOX) fuel use in Duke reactors, and that the US DOE may have issued a false Record of Decision in January 2000 by stating that Los Alamos was its choice for test assembly fabrication.


MORE INFO: Download the Report: Plutonium Management Background Paper