Missed MOX deadline costly unless federal law is changed

Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012 9:25 PM
Last updated Sunday, Feb. 19, 2012 12:40 AM
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The National Nuclear Security Admin­istration wants to change federal law to avoid paying a $100 million penalty to the state of South Carolina for missing deadlines involving its mixed oxide fuel facility at Savannah River Site.

The agency – in an overview of the U.S. plutonium disposition program attached to its fiscal 2013 budget – notes that the Atomic Energy Defense Act, which authorized the pro­ject, specifies a series of now-missed dead­lines, with penalties.

There was a Jan. 1, 2012, deadline for the $4.8 billion plant to begin its mission of making commercial nuclear reactor fuel. In addition to requiring payments to South Carolina, missing the deadline also requires the government to remove at least 1 metric ton of plutonium from the state by Jan. 1, 2014.

“Such a requirement is not possible to satisfy,” the report says. “Based on this statute, the Department could incur additional expenditure of resources in order to comply with requirements triggered by the obsolete notional dates under the current law.”

The NNSA, therefore, plans to seek a change in the law to move the deadlines ahead and likely will seek assistance from U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

Kevin Bishop, a spokesman for Graham, said the senator will be glad to help.

“Sen. Graham looks forward to reviewing the proposal from NNSA,” he said. “As a longtime advocate of the MOX facility, he will continue to push forward in ensuring the facility becomes operational.”

The MOX plant employs about 2,200 workers and is scheduled to open in 2016.

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