MOX facility at Savannah River Site could get funding for construction

 

The mixed-oxide fuel fabrication facility at Savannah River Site could be on track to receive more money than President Obama’s budget request.

U.S. House appropriators on Tuesday approved $345 million for the MOX plant, specifying the funds had to be used for construction activity and not to place the multibillion-dollar plutonium disposition facility on standby, as the president proposed. However, there is no guarantee that money will materialize.

The Senate has not yet considered the 2015 spending bill for federal energy and water projects. Recent congressional action, however, has left political backers of the project optimistic about the future of MOX.

A spokeswoman for Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., said bipartisan support has been an important signal that the MOX project will get funding needed to continue construction.

“Congressman Wilson is confident that the MOX funding figure will be significantly higher than the president’s proposed number,” said spokeswoman Caroline Delleney. “The president’s proposal did not reflect the best interest of our national security, the environmental safety of residents in the CSRA or the American taxpayers.”

The facility, which employs about 1,800 workers and is 60 percent complete, is being built to convert 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium into commercial reactor fuel.

In an effort to avoid layoffs while an analysis is completed on the plant’s future, the House Energy and Water Appropriation Subcommittee approved $150 million more than the Obama administration’s request for fiscal year 2015.

In recent weeks, the House and Senate also acted in favor of MOX by authorizing spending for the project’s construction in the National Defense Authorization Act. The Senate Armed Services Committee last week increased funding for the plant by $145 million and directed the National Nuclear Security Administration, a semi-autonomous branch of the U.S. Energy Department which manages the MOX project, to continue construction.

The plant has become increasingly expensive, leading the Energy Department to slow funding for the project. MOX construction received $320 million in fiscal 2013, $452.7 million in fiscal 2012 and $487.7 million under a 2013 continuing resolution.

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