Waste processing facility for MOX project will sit unused

Once complete, a $414 million building that will process waste from the mixed oxide fuel facility at Savannah River Site will sit unused for at least five years.

The waste solidification building “will be placed in lay-up for a period of not less than five years following acceptance and startup testing of components and systems,” according to a Dec. 27 report from the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.

The National Nuclear Security Administration advised Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, the primary contractor for the U.S. Department of Energy site, that the facility will be placed on standby before essential equipment is installed.

Critics of the MOX project said the latest report further points to poor planning and mismanagement of the plutonium disposition program.

“They never should have gotten into a situation that they built a multimillion dollar facility that will then sit there unused,” said Tom Clements, the nuclear adviser to the South Carolina chapter of the Sierra Club.

NNSA spokeswoman Keri Fulton said the department will “preserve and maintain the facility and equipment” until the MOX facility is ready to dispose of surplus plutonium.

“NNSA has sufficient information to determine that the first receipt of liquids from the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility will be a minimum of five years after completion of the WSB project,” Fulton said.

Construction on the waste solidification building began in 2009 with a $345 million budget and projected completion in 2013. The facility will process low-level and liquid waste streams generated from the MOX facility.

The MOX facility, about 60 percent complete, has become increasingly expensive and behind schedule. According to a Government Accountability Office report released last year, construction costs were revised from $4.9 billion to $7.7 billion and the start of operations were delayed from October 2016 to November 2019.

Fulton did not respond to a request for the waste solidification building’s completion date.

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