Nuclear Regulatory Commission to host MOX review open-house

The over-budget, past-deadline MOX facility remains under construction at the Savannah River Site.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced Monday that it will hold an open house April 18 to discuss Savannah River Site’s mixed oxide fuel fabrication facility.

 

The MOX plant is partly under the purview of the NRC and also falls under the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. The still incomplete facility is designed to process excess defense plutonium to create usable fuel for electricity production in commercial reactors.

The open house will cover the NRC’s 2016 assessment of MOX construction and safety that was released last month. The report was positive, noting that CB&I Areva MOX Services, the contractor building the plant, satisfactorily met requirements.

In contrast, the NNSA review for award-fee money available to the contractor called the company’s progress and performance “unsatisfactory.” While the descriptions of both reviews say they cover construction progress, cost and safety issues, the NNSA said they examine different parts of the facility’s progress.

The MOX plant is years beyond deadline and already has an overall price tag above its expected total build cost. The contract company says the facility is 70 percent complete, but NNSA estimates place progress near the 30 percent mark.

Current funding from Congress is $340 million for fiscal year 2016. Congress has allotted the same amount for fiscal year 2017, but an appropriations bill has not been passed, leaving the project progressing at last year’s funding levels.

The contract company estimates it can finish the facility by 2028, but the NNSA estimates the plant won’t be completed until the late 2040s at current progression rates.

Part of the open house discussion is a violation reported by the NRC during an inspection in early 2016. According to the annual review, the inspection identified issues “in the areas of supplier evaluations and control of purchased material, equipment and services.”

CB&I Areva MOX Services put a corrective action plan into place, and the NRC has planned a follow-on inspection of the problem area in the future. The NRC correspondence with MOX said the issue had been properly addressed and the inspection will ensure continued compliance.

SRS Watch Director and outspoken MOX opponent Tom Clements said he isn’t sure the meeting is worth attending.

“I’m all but certain that the canned answers by NRC staff about the MOX project will yield little useful information about the actual status of the project. Unlike in some past years when there was an actual dialogue in a more formal setting, I won’t be attending the meeting and I won’t encourage the public to attend,” he said.

According to a news release, there will be no formal presentation. NRC staff members will be available to answer questions and provide information about the inspection and MOX oversight.

 

Reach Thomas Gardiner at (706) 823-3339 or thomas.gardiner@augustachronicle.com.

If you go

What: Nuclear Regulatory Commission open house

When: 6-7 p.m. April 18

Where: Applied Research Center, 301 Gateway Dr., New Ellenton

Plant receives waste

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The nation’s only underground nuclear repository has received its first shipment of waste, more than three years after shipping was halted in response to a radiation release that contaminated part of the facility and sidetracked the federal government’s multibillion-dollar cleanup program.

The U.S. Energy Department said Monday that the shipment from a federal facility in Idaho marked a milestone for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and the government sites where tons of waste left over from decades of nuclear weapons research and development have been stacking up, including Savannah River Site.

The repository plans to receive two shipments a week at first, then ramp up to four a week by the end of 2017. The initial shipments will come from Idaho, SRS and the private Waste Control Specialists in West Texas.

– Associated Press

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