GAO says cost of MOX plant rises by $2 billion

Plant's estimated price tag up $2 billion

Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013 1:39 PM
Last updated Friday, Feb. 15, 2013 1:51 AM
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The cost of the government’s mixed oxide fuel plant at Savannah River Site has risen by $2 billion, according to a report issued Thursday by the Government Ac­count­ability Office.

In an annual assessment to Congress on the most expensive “high-risk” federal projects, the GAO said the Na­tion­al Nuclear Security Ad­min­is­tration “recently added $2 billion to the project’s cost estimate, even as the facility nears completion.”

The disclosure, which raises the plant’s cost to $6.8 billion, is the first official confirmation of a major cost increase in the project to dispose of surplus plutonium by blending it with commercial reactor fuel.

Last fall, in response to an environmental statement addressing changes in the program, environmental groups complained that updated budget figures were needed for construction and operating costs.

“The MOX plant cost estimate has been frozen at $4.8 billion for the last several years,” said the groups, which included the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth and the Alli­ance for Nuclear Accoun­tability.

Both the U.S. Department of En­ergy and the nuclear security agency have declined to provide new cost estimates, the groups said.

The MOX plant, scheduled to open in 2016 and begin fuel production in 2018, is designed to dispose of 34 metric tons of plutonium extracted from dismantled warheads. Blending the material with uranium to make reactor fuel renders the plutonium permanently unusable for weapons.

The environmental groups cited a 2003 Energy De­­part­ment forecast that the plant would be completed in 2007, with a construction cost of $1.7 billion.

Last month, a key member of the U.S. House Energy and Com­merce committee, Rep. Ed­ward Markey, D-Mass., raised questions about the project’s cost.

“While there is near-universal agreement on the need for permanent disposal of our surplus weapons-grade plutonium, it is far from clear that the department’s current plan is the most cost-effective means of doing so,” Markey wrote in a letter to the Energy De­part­ment.

The GAO report is part of the agency’s program to focus attention on government operations it identifies as high risk because of vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement or the need for transformation to address economy, efficiency or effectiveness challenges.

Though the 275-page report mentioned the MOX project only briefly, it also noted that the agency is conducting a more specific inquiry into the program.

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GiantsAllDay 02/14/13 - 04:52 pm
Rising costs on MOX is NOT

Rising costs on MOX is NOT news! The root word for "news" is "new". Rising costs for MOX has happened and wil continue to happen. If you want to keep reporting on this, well, this is your right, but it's a waste of newspaper space. Here's a couple of things that will be news, pertaining to MOX:
DOE has found a sucker utility to buy the fuel OR
The American taxpayer finally says enough is enough and DOE abandons the project.

Riverman1 02/15/13 - 09:28 am
Not sure how you go over

Not sure how you go over costs by TWO BILLION???

resident 02/15/13 - 09:58 am
Cash COW!!!!!

What this shows is a prime example of of how agencies with their paid of administrators and overpaid staff get to have million dollar homes and a multitude of other things. I betting that small simple things cost 4 times what they should and labor is probably 10 times what it should be Union or not! I have seen this on many government projects, just look at roads and bridhes costs and how it can be drug out over time and then they get over budget more money thrown their way just to finish it!. When are we going to speak up about this loudly to the politicians at say the polls. Stop saying this dem or repub fault..What this is is simply waste by allowing lobyists to make the laws..The so called representatives just sign on the dotted line and clooect their kickback in various forms that can be swept under radar as not illegal. I am only one voice but trust me I am constantly a pain in the elected officials back becasue I ask a very simple 3 letter word....WHY? and then ask them to show definative proof....I get looked at funny because I turn in waste such as speeding in gov veehicles, lights left on all day on ballfields, gov vehicles used for personal purposes, contracts I seen that are overpriced and given to unqualified people that then get delays because they did not have the staff to do the work...

Bubba 02/15/13 - 01:07 pm
For anyone who hasn't made up their minds.

Inflammatory rhetoric like "sucker utility" doesn't help foster discussion. So I'll try and avoid getting drawn into that quagmire.

How do you go over by 2 billion? You don't run down to Lowe's and buy some pipe to move Plutonium through a process facility like MOX. That's NQA-1 Material. The lack of nuclear construction for the last years has lead to a shortage of high quality certified vendors for many items that would go into an operation like MOX.

At a cost of 500 million a year (and rising, I'm sure.) to guard the plutonium this country has currently, and no other feasible plan to dispose of something that cost the country a fortune to produce, MOX remains the best option to keep the promises the US made in this area of nuclear weapon non-proliferation. That price per year to guard plutonium was a wash at ten years of not guarding the plutonium under the apparently older budget numbers.

Yucca Mountain now a non-starter after billions spent there if you want to talk about boondoggles. I can think of a few more too.

We look as a nation look stupid spending a fortune on something, and then deciding in midstream we want to do something else. We need to stay the course here; finish it and run the plant. What we don't need to have is an enormous concrete box at SRS where we spent billions and then walked away from it for no good reason.

I have heard that the civil work on the building is almost done and that they have almost 14 MILLION hours worked without a lost time injury. They are clearly doing some things right, no matter what the detractors think.

resident- As a resident myself, I applaud people who are against wasteful spending. I'd have closed the post offices on Wednesdays instead of Saturdays, so we wouldn't lack mail delivery two days in a row. And I'd have done it now, not in August. What's that about? I'd get rid of the penny and the dollar bill. Find me a one Euro note. And No, I don't want to become Europe, but they have the equivalent of one and two dollar coins there. Let's not think it’s a bad idea just because They thought of it. Getting rid of pennies and dollar bills would save Billions every year. There are plenty of things we can do, turning out lights in ballparks, yeah, it all adds up. If we all tried to figure out how to save the government money, like we do in our own household budgets, maybe we could work our way out of the mess we are in. Maybe. Ya'll have a good weekend.

SCEagle Eye
SCEagle Eye 02/15/13 - 03:39 pm

MooooX, said the SRS cash cow as AREVA milked it again and again. Lindsey Graham supervised with a sly grin, revealing his self-pleasure at having continually fleeced the tax payers while has pals got rich. Another $2 billion down the drain and into the pockets of special interests, just as these projects are designed by DOE to work.

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