Southern Anti-Plutonium Campaign  

Plutonium Fuel Factory

Why Have Costs Doubled?

The Department of Energy (DOE) cites the addition of "aqueous polishing"; more accurately termed liquid acid plutonium processing. DOE originally claimed that low-waste producing, "dry" plutonium processing would be used and refused to analyze liquid acid processing as a "reasonable alternative" until 1999. Oak Ridge National Laboratory reported in December, 2000 that: "A Decision was made in 1997 that the plutonium oxide would be polished to remove impurities and to control the powder characteristics." DOE withheld this information from Congress and the public.

Why Has Size More Than Doubled?

The change from dry to liquid acid plutonium processing accounts for part of the size change. Other factors more recently reported include:

full automation (meaning fewer jobs)

an increased storage area (meaning higher risks from an accident);

"enhanced seismic, life safety, and physical security features to meet U.S. requirements," (meaning that the original proposal from Duke Cogema Stone and Webster did not adequately account for U.S. laws and regulations).

Design Cost Increases for the Plutonium Fuel Factory 1999 - 2002
Project: Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility - Title I & II Design 2a. Project No. 99 - D - 1431

Fiscal Year

Design Cost Estimate,
Title I & II Design

Hardened Space
Size Estimate
(in Square Feet)
Support Space

Total Space
$50,375,000 (50.4 Million Dollars). First Year Funding

100,000 100,000 200,000
2000 $50,375,000 (50.4 Million Dollars)

120,000 55,000 175,000
2001 $65,375,000 (60.4 Million Dollars). Reason for Increase: "The addition of anaqueous processing step prior to fabricating mixed-oxide fuel."

160,000 55,000 215,000
2002   320,000 120,000 440,000
  $92,318,000 (92.3 Million Dollars). Reason for Increase: "The recharacterization of a portion of project operating costs as Total Estimated Cost (TEC) components, adjustment of DOE contingency, cost growth related to physical security design requirements, and schedule slips resulting from late issuance of the January 1997 Surplus Plutonium Disposition Record of Decision (ROD)." Reasons for doubling of size: "full automation, an increased storage area, and a laboratory...enhanced seismic, life safety, and physical security features are included in the current sign to meet U.S. requirements."

1 Sources: Department of Energy Budget Request Justifications, Fiscal Years 1999 to 2002.

Aug. 23, 2001: PLUTONIUM FUEL FUNDING NEARLY EXHAUSTED , BAD COST ESTIMATES PLAGUE PROGRAM - Documents obtained this week by the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) indicate that funding for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Plutonium/MOX fuel program contract is nearly exhausted. BREDL Press Release