MOX in Germany: Reprocessing Spurs Opposition to Nuclear Power
This report presents a historical overview of mixed oxide (MOX) plutonium-uranium fuel in Germany, including both its fabrication and use in light-water nuclear power reactors. Interviews were conducted in Germany in 2018 with current government and former utility officials, and experts at think tanks and NGOs. The study explores the economic, security, public acceptance, safety, and environmental aspects of the German MOX experience. Domestic attempts to commercially reprocess spent nuclear fuel failed due to public opposition. Germany did produce MOX fuel from 1968 to 1991, but stopped because of local opposition following a radiation accident. German utilities also exported spent fuel to – and imported MOX fuel from – France, the United Kingdom, and Belgium. MOX fuel performed well in German nuclear power plants, but it cost three to five times as much as LEU fuel. The foreign reprocessing of spent fuel to recycle plutonium in MOX in Germany proved highly controversial, as anti-nuclear groups successfully stigmatized the international nuclear shipments on environmental and nonproliferation grounds. Ironically, the insistence of the German government on closing the nuclear fuel cycle inadvertently contributed to the demise of not only MOX but nuclear energy in Germany.