South Carolina drops lawsuit challenging MOX shutdown

The state of South Carolina dropped its legal challenge to the U.S. Department of Energy’s decision to shutter the mixed-oxide fuel fabrication facility at Savannah River Site on Friday.

The lawsuit, filed in mid-March, accused Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and the National Nuclear Security Administration of using fiscal year 2014 funding approved to construct the site to shut it down. The federal agencies announced Tuesday that construction would continue until at least the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

In a statement, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said the state won a small victory in Tuesday’s announcement that will temporarily safeguard the MOX program.

“Although I am disappointed that, once again, the state was forced to seek redress from the courts to protect the citizens of South Carolina from a federal government ignoring the rule of law, we are pleased with the outcome in this case,” Wilson said. “The federal government will continue moving forward, at least for now, on this project that is critical to security of our state and country.”

The multibillion-dollar MOX project is intended to convert 34 metric tons of U.S. weapons-grade plutonium into commercial reactor fuel. Cost overruns in the billions led the Obama administration to slash funding for the project and propose placing it on “cold standby.”

An agreement dismissing the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Aiken said the federal government’s direction to the MOX contractor to continue construction through September “resolves the pending controversy at this time.”

Wilson said the state will continue to fight for the project to continue in fiscal year 2015.

“While this is undoubtedly a victory for South Carolina, its citizens and all Americans, the battle is not over,” he said. “We must remain ever-vigilant in continuing the fight to uphold the rule of law and ensure that this important program continues.”

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