MOX is nuclear reactor fuel containing plutonium oxides mixed with conventionally used uranium oxides. It is called "MOX" for short.
Fifty tons of U.S. plutonium have been declared surplus and designated for disposition to prevent its use in bombs. Plutonium has a low specific activity, that is, it is not very "hot" radioactive-wise, therefore it is vulnerable to theft and the idea is to secure the plutonium with a high-radiation field. The basic idea behind MOX is to place the plutonium-laced MOX fuel in commercial nuclear reactors where the fission process will build up deadly radiation to create a radioactive barrier to theft or re-use of the plutonium.
Because MOX involves processing and trafficking of plutonium, the critical ingredient in nuclear weapons, there is widespread opposition to using plutonium as reactor fuel for proliferation reasons. See PLUTONIUM REACTOR PROBLEM.
Environmental concerns about MOX range from increased risk of reactor accident and increased public health consequences to plutonium processing safety and security concerns and MOX waste management. The environmentally preferred option is PLUTONIUM IMMOBILIZATION in the stranded high-radiation tank wastes at Savannah River Site. Encasing plutonium in the glassification process for these 35,000,000 gallons of highly radioactive wastes left over from Cold War plutonium production would solve two deep problems at once.
Year plutonium was discovered by Glenn Seaborg and others
Minimum amount of plutonium required for bomb
1 kilogram (2.2 pounds)
Amount of plutonium used in Nagasaki bomb
Average amount of plutonium used in modern atom bomb
Estimated amount of U.S. weapons-grade plutonium
85,000 kilograms (93.5 tons)
Estimated amount of Russian weapons-grade plutonium
160,000 kilograms (176 tons)
Hazards associated with plutonium
Radiation, fire, inhalation, ingestion, criticality, reactivity, decay
Length of time that
plutonium 239 (weapons-grade) remains hazardous
(Ten 24,000-year half-lives)
Form of plutonium most hazardous to life
Plutonium oxide powder
What happens to plutonium metal when exposed to air
Gradually turns to
plutonium oxide powder
Lethal amount of plutonium oxide powder (inhaled)
Lethal amount of plutonium oxide powder (ingested)
Amount of sugar substitute in average 1 gram package
Excerpted from Stop Plutonium Fuel: Plutonium Index, compiled by Don Moniak. Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, www.bredl.org
Both the planet Pluto and the element plutonium are named for the ancient god Pluto, ruler of the underworld and the dead.
In mythology, Pluto was an unwelcome visitor to Earth and to the ancient abode of the gods Olympus, because of his unpitying and inflexible nature.
Pluto was King of the Dead, but not Death itself; terrible, but not evil.