Skip to main content

The End of Megatons to Megawatts

MegatonsToMegawatts-IGThis is what it is – or was:

The Megatons to Megawatts Program is a unique, commercially financed government-industry partnership in which uranium from dismantled Russian nuclear warheads has been recycled to produce fuel for American nuclear power plants.  The 20-year, $8 billion program has been implemented at no cost to taxpayers and is arguably the most successful nuclear disarmament program in history. Virtually the entire U.S. nuclear reactor fleet has used this fuel.

And this has been its benefit:

Since 1995, U.S. utilities have purchased this fuel for their commercial nuclear power plants under Megatons to Megawatts, which has helped fuel approximately 10 percent of the country’s electricity during that time. Nuclear energy facilities received this fuel as part of its commercial fuel contract for low enriched uranium with USEC Inc., the U.S. executive agent for the program.

And now, the Russians have sent the last of the low enriched uranium to the United States. The AP notes it briefly:

The final shipment arrived in Baltimore this week. The shipment was loaded last month from St. Petersburg, Russia. It was the last one under a program known as Megatons to Megawatts. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz called the program one of the most successful nuclear nonproliferation partnerships ever undertaken.

That’s putting it mildly. You could almost hear the mechanisms of the cold war disassembling.

It could have continued, but the Russians decided to end the program when the agreement expired. There was no particular given reason for this, but Russia has seen an upswing in its nuclear technology exports in recent years and it has explicitly wanted to make more money from the uranium – according to Agence France-Presse, “USEC has signed a new agreement with Russian consortium Techsnabexport, but fuel provided under the deal will be at market prices, USEC said in October.” So, in a way, it is continuing, but as a more commercial enterprise. Still, it’s 20,000 warheads that became megawatts. That’s as good a definition of Atoms for Peace as any, isn’t it?

---

NEI President and CEO Marv Fertel offers his thoughts on the end of Megatons to Megawatts and it legacy on NEI’s YouTube channel. Worth a look.

The great looking infographic used as the illustration above can be found – larger and printable – at the main NEI site.

Comments

jimwg said…
A worthy program whose end effect is mostly political and academic. The voter on the street isn't going to be persuaded to accept nuclear power by how many warheads evaporate but by someone showing them that Fukushima was a rare zero-causality nature-caused fluke and tout to them counter-FUD nuclear plant stats and safety records. WWIII is pretty much out of sight and mind to people today, not the same about their energy bills and whose energy camp is sincere and safest. That's the new tangible war out there and at least in the US nuclear's losing for want for fighting back.

James Greenidge
Queens NY
gmax137 said…
I disagree with you on that one, Jim. I think it's a real shame that this program isn't more widely known. Outside of the rabidly vocal anti-nukes, there are alot of thoughtful and well meaning folks who oppose nuclear power that would be surprised to hear about it. It likely wouldn't change their minds, but it might put at least one item in the "plus column."
Mitch said…
there are alot of thoughtful and well meaning folks who oppose nuclear power that would be surprised to hear about it.

Sure They know about it. Makes no difference next to Fukuishima. Ask FOE & Greenpeace. Nuclear always means death to them one way or another.
Anonymous said…
Reading the first time about the megatons to megawatts program was one of the bigger "Wow, that's great" moments for me, when I was educating myself about nuclear energy. It was one of the things that changed my mind, but then, I was halfway there already at that moment.
Still, people find it interesting to hear about it and many didn't know before. It is, at least here in the Netherlands, not well known at all.

Twominds

Popular posts from this blog

Making Clouds for a Living

Donell Banks works at Southern Nuclear’s Plant Vogtle units 3 and 4 as a shift supervisor in Operations, but is in the process of transitioning to his newly appointed role as the daily work controls manager. He has been in the nuclear energy industry for about 11 years.

I love what I do because I have the unique opportunity to help shape the direction and influence the culture for the future of nuclear power in the United States. Every single day presents a new challenge, but I wouldn't have it any other way. As a shift supervisor, I was primarily responsible for managing the development of procedures and programs to support operation of the first new nuclear units in the United States in more than 30 years. As the daily work controls manager, I will be responsible for oversight of the execution and scheduling of daily work to ensure organizational readiness to operate the new units.

I envision a nuclear energy industry that leverages the technology of today to improve efficiency…

Nuclear: Energy for All Political Seasons

The electoral college will soon confirm a surprise election result, Donald Trump. However, in the electricity world, there are fewer surprises – physics and economics will continue to apply, and Republicans and Democrats are going to find a lot to like about nuclear energy over the next four years.

In a Trump administration, the carbon conversation is going to be less prominent. But the nuclear value proposition is still there. We bring steady jobs to rural areas, including in the Rust Belt, which put Donald Trump in office. Nuclear plants keep the surrounding communities vibrant.

We hold down electricity costs for the whole economy. We provide energy diversity, reducing the risk of disruption. We are a critical part of America’s industrial infrastructure, and the importance of infrastructure is something that President-Elect Trump has stressed.

One of our infrastructure challenges is natural gas pipelines, which have gotten more congested as extremely low gas prices have pulled m…

Innovation Fuels the Nuclear Legacy: Southern Nuclear Employees Share Their Stories

Blake Bolt and Sharimar Colon are excited about nuclear energy. Each works at Southern Nuclear Co. and sees firsthand how their ingenuity powers the nation’s largest supply of clean energy. For Powered by Our People, they shared their stories of advocacy, innovation in the workplace and efforts to promote efficiency. Their passion for nuclear energy casts a bright future for the industry.

Blake Bolt has worked in the nuclear industry for six years and is currently the work week manager at Hatch Nuclear Plant in Georgia. He takes pride in an industry he might one day pass on to his children.

What is your job and why do you enjoy doing it?
As a Work Week Manager at Plant Hatch, my primary responsibility is to ensure nuclear safety and manage the risk associated with work by planning, scheduling, preparing and executing work to maximize the availability and reliability of station equipment and systems. I love my job because it enables me to work directly with every department on the plant…