No Mr. Lean, MOX is a solution to proliferation fears

Geoffrey Lean manages to get the wrong end of the stick yet again.

Yes, the MOX plant at Sellafield is grossly uneconomic, but it isn\’t a potential cause of plutonium getting into the wrong hands:

Things would be even worse if the plant were to succeed, because it would then be taking the raw material for bombs out of the closely guarded stores where it is now held and having it transported around the country – or the world – as the fuel was taken to reactors. If terrorists or criminals intercepted a shipment, they could – nuclear physicists say – extract the plutonium and use it to make a bomb capable of destroying much of a major city.

Quite dishonestly, the DECC consultation pretends that its plans will guard against diversion to bombmaking, by pointing out that once the fuel has been irradiated by reactors, it will be too radioactive for terrorists to handle. That\’s true, but misleading: the danger comes when the fresh fuel is being taken to them in the first place. Yet the consultation paper does not devote a word to this threat, despite groups such as al-Qaeda having said they have a \”religious duty\” to acquire nuclear weapons.

No, extracting the plutonium from MOX would require the sort of kit that would either kill everyone who hasn\’t got it or kit the size of Sellafield.

Which is why we actually do make MOX. So that instead of having plutonium for bombs lying around it\’s all safely tucked up into fuel rods.

MOX is a solution to proliferation fears, not a cause of them.

One comment on “No Mr. Lean, MOX is a solution to proliferation fears

  1. “extracting the plutonium from MOX would require the sort of kit that would either kill everyone who hasn’t got it or kit the size of Sellafield” – not sure about that – given the willingness on the part of the bomb makers to die eventually, it may indeed be possible to process fresh (even used fuel) in a cottage industry way without dying before you’ve extracted enough.

    Yes, you’ll certainly kill yourself with a “garden shed” setup, but you might get many months/years before you die – plenty of time to fulfill your mission.

    It is easy enough to think of techniques to decant the acids and remove the precipitates etc etc that involve long sticks and little apertures in brick walls. Wear heavy clothing, breathing filters – you might live for years .

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