Despite cost overruns in the billions, the mixed oxide fuel facility being built at Savannah River Site is in line to get more money than requested in the massive federal spending bill moving through Congress this week.
The troubled MOX plant would receive $23.5 million more than the $320 million requested by the U.S. Department of Energy, although the amount would be less than what it received last year.
MOX construction received $452.7 million in fiscal 2012, when the last budget was adopted, and $487.7 million under a 2013 continuing resolution.
The MOX plant, designed to dispose of plutonium from surplus nuclear bombs by blending it into commercial reactor fuel, is three years behind schedule, and its projected cost has grown from $4.9 billion to $7.7 billion, according to a Government Accountability Office report.
The spending bill attempts to hold the MOX program accountable for cost overruns by requiring DOE to perform an analysis to identify why the cost is going up and finds ways to correct those issues.
In its 2014 budget requests, the Obama administration said the MOX plant, part of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s nonproliferation effort, “may be unaffordable … due to cost growth and fiscal pressure.”
The budget summary added that officials should explore alternate plutonium disposition methods.
The MOX construction site employs about 1,600 employees.
Critics of the MOX program said the federal government should not provide more money than requested for a project that’s over budget.
“The mismanaged MOX program is far over budget and the requirement for a report on the cost problems is a tiny effort, at best, to address what is turning out to be a totally unsustainable program,” said Tom Clements, the southeastern nuclear campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth.