MOX plant costs, schedules questioned by lawmaker

Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013 1:51 PM
Last updated Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013 12:04 AM
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A key member of the U.S. House Energy & Commerce subcommittee is raising new questions about the construction schedule and eventual cost of the government’s $4.8 billion mixed oxide fuel plant under construction at Savannah River Site.

Citing reports that the MOX plant “may be over budget, behind schedule and lacking even a single customer for its product,” Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., has asked Energy Secretary Steven Chu for updated construction cost estimates for the project, along with a firm timeline for completion and operation.

The plant is designed to dispose of 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium by blending it with uranium to make fuel for commercial power reactors, a process that renders the plutonium unusable for weapons.

“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 dated Monday.

Although the construction budget adopted in 2007 was $4.8 billion, Markey stated that the trade journal Nuclear Weapons & Materials Monitor cited an internal Department of Energy estimate that adds $2 billion to construction costs because of changes in commodity prices, personnel turnover and other factors.

The current schedule calls for the MOX fuel plant to open in 2016, with production of commercial fuel starting by 2018.

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Little Lamb
Little Lamb 01/15/13 - 04:48 pm
But it's green

Energy Secretary Steven Chu is the architect of Solyndra and the myriad of other bankrupt companies run by Obama contributors who siphoned billions of dollars in taxpayer stimulus into their own bank accounts. It would be ludicrous to expect him to run a cost effective government operation. It's just mad money to Chu.

SCEagle Eye
SCEagle Eye 01/16/13 - 07:48 pm
MOX billions wasted

MOX is a prime example of wasteful projects being administered by DOE. DOE thrives on such expensive, needless projects at tax payer expense. It's time to go back to the drawing board on plutonium disposition and choose the option that costs the least - managing plutonium as waste. The French government-owned company AREVA may be angry at "losing" billions they are counting on but let them cry in their wine about that.

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