AMG forms new company to promote MOX technology

05 April 2024

Dutch specialty metals company AMG Critical Materials NV has created a new company - named NewMOX SAS - to develop commercial facilities for the production of mixed plutonium-uranium oxide (MOX) fuel using AMG's sintering furnace systems.

Based in Grenoble, France, NewMOX SAS is a subsidiary of ALD Vacuum Technologies GmbH in Hanau, Germany, AMG's engineering subsidiary focused on vacuum furnace technology, which includes sintering furnace systems enabling the production of MOX fuel.

AMG said ALD's MOX technology has already been used in Germany, the USA, France, Belgium, the UK and recently ALD has been delivering such furnace systems to China.

Serge Bertrand, head of ALD France, Grenoble - where ALD has centred its nuclear technology activities - has been appointed CEO of NewMOX, while Johannes Fachinger, head of nuclear ALD Hanau, will be its chief technology officer.

According to AMG, globally there are currently about 380 tonnes of civil-use plutonium resulting from the reprocessing of used fuel from commercial nuclear power operations in storage.

"The storage of plutonium is extremely costly due to the risks associated with plutonium," it noted. "The conversion of plutonium into MOX fuel not only eliminates these risks but can be a commercially attractive alternative to storage. As an indicator, the conversion of 380 tons of plutonium into MOX translates at present fuel prices into a commercial value of USD15 to USD20 billion."

"The NewMOX business model is simple," said AMG CEO Heinz Schimmelbusch. "There is a lot of plutonium stored and the operators of these storage facilities are seeking ways to reduce storage costs; there is the proven ALD MOX sinter furnace technology; and there is a large MOX market which will grow with the development of the emerging small modular reactor wave.

"It is the objective of NewMOX to form partnerships for the construction and operation of a commercial plutonium recycling facility producing MOX fuel starting with conceptual engineering and feasibility studies. This will take time, but this is a very valuable destination."

The plutonium (and uranium) in used nuclear fuel can be recovered through reprocessing. The plutonium can then be used in the manufacture of MOX fuel, to substitute for fresh uranium oxide fuel. A single recycle of plutonium in the form of MOX fuel increases the energy derived from the original uranium by some 12%, and if the uranium is also recycled this becomes about 22% (based on light water reactor fuel with a burn-up of 45 GWd/tU).

Today, MOX is widely used in Europe and in Japan. Currently about 40 reactors in Europe (Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and France) are licensed to use MOX, and more than 30 are doing so. In Japan, about ten reactors are licensed to use it. These reactors generally use MOX fuel as about one-third of their core, but some will accept up to 50% MOX assemblies.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News