MOX in Belgium: An Engineering Success but Policy Failure

Valentina Bonello

This chapter assesses Belgium’s experience with both manufacturing mixed-oxide (MOX) plutonium-uranium fuel for light-water nuclear reactors, and using such fuel. It is the first such study to focus on Belgium’s production and use of MOX fuel, including economic, security, and safety aspects. Field interviews were conducted in France and Belgium in 2018 with officials from Tractebel, Belgonucléaire, Greenpeace, and the University of Liège, and with independent consultants. MOX fuel production and use in Belgium were successes technically but could not compete economically with traditional low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel. Both production and use of MOX also posed security, safety, environmental, and public acceptance concerns (beyond those of LEU), which Belgian policymakers failed to address adequately. Based on the Belgian experience, other countries may wish to avoid reprocessing their spent fuel or disposing of their separated plutonium in MOX fuel. Alternative back-end options should be explored that are economically sustainable and do not pose security and safety threats to the local and international community.