Environmentalists and nuclear safety advocates Thursday warned of dangers presented by the controversial MOX fuel program and criticized the U.S. Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for proceeding with the program.
About 40 people, including state Rep. Bessie Moody-Lawrence,
D-Rock Hill, and York County Emer-gency Management Director Cotton Howell, gathered at Winthrop Uni-versity's McBryde Hall to hear six panelists who gathered at the request of the Carolina Peace Resource Center and the Blue Ridge Environ-mental Defense League.
The MOX program is a partnership between Duke Energy, two other companies and the DOE. Duke is slated to use the fuel in a test program at the McGuire 2 reactor on Lake Norman in 2003. York County's Catawba Nuclear Station will use MOX when the full program begins in 2007.
The panelists agreed with the government's goal of reducing weapons grade plutonium to keep it out of the hands of terrorist groups. But they objected to the MOX program when cheaper alternatives are available and being used for plutonium not fit for use as MOX.
The federal government has spent nearly $50 million on the program, said Don Moniak, an anti-MOX activist.
"MOX fuel has no economic energy value because of its hazards," Moniak said. "The program creates more waste and more hazard, and we have to build the plants to create the fuel."
Construction on the Savannah River Site processing plant likely will begin before any public hearings by the NRC to authorize the use of the fuel in area plants. Panelists fear that by the time of hearings, so much time, money and effort will have gone into the program it will have too much momentum to stop.
But that isn't fair to Duke, said Rose Cummings, Catawba Nuclear Station community relations manager, who attended the meeting.
"We live in this area and raise our families here," she said. "We're not going to proceed with anything we are unsure about."
Contact Ray Burton at 329-4066 or