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MOX plant cost revised to $7.7 billion, with three-year delay

Plant's deadline pushed to 2019

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 4:12 PM
Last updated Thursday, March 21, 2013 1:57 AM
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The projected cost of the mixed oxide fuel plant at Savannah River Site has risen by $2.8 billion – to $7.7 billion – and will take three years longer than planned to complete, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

The findings were shared in testimony Wednesday by David C. Trimble, the GAO’s natural resources and environment director, who aired a series of concerns before the House Energy and Water Subcommittee.

The MOX plant, part of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s nonproliferation effort, 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.

Trimble’s report said the U.S. Department of Energy has forecast that the plant’s $4.9 billion cost will increase to $7.7 billion and the start of operations will be delayed from October 2016 to November 2019.

“Specifically, DOE is evaluating a project baseline change proposal prepared by NNSA’s contractor,” the report said, referring to Shaw AREVA MOX Services. “The cost increase and schedule delay will not be known until DOE completes its review of the contractor’s proposal and DOE’s project oversight office completes an independent cost estimate of the project.”

The report identified several factors that could affect cost and schedule, including inadequately designed components such as gloveboxes used for handling plutonium; not understanding the ability of the nuclear industry to fabricate and deliver nuclear-quality components on time; effectiveness of project reviews; and changes in project scope.

One such change in scope, the report stated, was a decision to cancel a planned Pit Disassembly and Conversion Facility in which plutonium “pits” from nuclear warheads would be processed into powdered feedstock for the MOX plant.

“NNSA canceled the facility in January 2012 and, instead, decided to meet its feedstock requirements through existing facilities at DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Savannah River Site, including potentially the MOX facility,” the GAO said, adding that the government spent $730 million designing the facility before canceling it.

The GAO will continue to follow and report on the project, Trimble’s report said.

Robert Middaugh, a spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration, said the numbers shared in the GAO report are not yet final.

“NNSA has received a baseline change proposal from MOX Services, the prime contractor for the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility, which it is currently evaluating,” Middaugh said. “Until the new baseline is validated and approved the number is subject to change. We expect to complete our review of baseline change proposal by the end of the fiscal year.”

Critics of the MOX program said the GAO’s findings are a cause to cut funding for the project.

“This huge cost increase is more justification to pull the plug on a MOX project that is totally out of control,” said Tom Clements, the Southeastern nuclear campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth.

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SCEagle Eye
958
Points
SCEagle Eye 03/20/13 - 03:34 pm
2
0
MOX costs spiral upward, project downward

Let's take bets that the cost on the MOX plant will reach $8 billion by April Fool's Day. These DOE projects are designed from the get-go to increase dramatically and milk the tax payer right? AREVA is loving it. How about you, taxpayer?

Riverman1
93737
Points
Riverman1 03/20/13 - 05:02 pm
4
0
What I've always worried about

What I've always worried about when dealing with nuclear wastes is what if there is economic (or other) upheaval and there is no money or will to control the wastes? Are we close now? Watch us get stuck with enough glow in the dark stuff to last a few thousand years. Yucca Mt. by default.

Young Fred
21135
Points
Young Fred 03/20/13 - 04:55 pm
3
0
What's new? Has there ever

What's new? Has there ever been, in the history of mankind, a government project that came in under budget/projections? I'm sure there must be a miniscule percentage.

Young Fred
21135
Points
Young Fred 03/20/13 - 05:01 pm
3
0
AND whose job is it to make

AND whose job is it to make the projections? Must be the easiest job on the planet! Probably gets paid 6 figures. Plus bonuses!

Pick a number out of the air, half it, sell it, come in over budget, no repercussions.

Sign me up!

GiantsAllDay
10498
Points
GiantsAllDay 03/20/13 - 07:18 pm
2
3
I just can't wait for the

I just can't wait for the illustrious Dr. Clint "make my day" Wolfe to defend all this in a special guest LTE this Sunday. Hey, Chronicle! I have an idea. Tell Clint that he is not longer allowed to submit LTE's to this newspaper on the account that he has lost all credence in this community.

GiantsAllDay
10498
Points
GiantsAllDay 03/20/13 - 07:19 pm
0
3
+1

+1

Little Lamb
49094
Points
Little Lamb 03/21/13 - 07:25 am
3
0
Project

In answer to Young Fred's question about government projects coming in under budget — Fred Russell testified to Augusta commissioners that the TEE Center and Marriott parking deck projects left spare SPLOST money lying around all over the place. He was trying to get the commission to use some of that "spare" money to build a pedestrian bridge between the two buildings because Paul Simon wanted one.

Even the Augusta commission could see through that subterfuge — for now, at least.

Humble Angela
41338
Points
Humble Angela 03/21/13 - 07:57 am
2
0
The only thing I WILL defend
Unpublished

The only thing I WILL defend on this is that using excess Pu to generate electricity IS the logical thing to do......How DOE manages taxpayer money to achieve this is the problem. The concept is sound...fission is the ONLY way to make plutonium completely unusable as a explosive device. All other methods that don't fission the material end up with usable fissile material.

GetRealNow
5
Points
GetRealNow 03/21/13 - 10:21 am
1
1
Thank your Government regulators for overage

Blame for MOX overages can be laid at the feet of the US Government and NIMBY groups. Other countries have constructed MOX facilities in record time, and have been running for years. BUT, nothing will get built in this country without overages, because our nanny state government will take a simple plan, and have 150+ agencies read it, discuss it, change it, and review and gripe again. WE don't have a system in this country to build anything without massive regulation. If you plan to make a pie, and you have to submit your plans to 150 committees, and then committe one doesn't like your flour for your crust, you can spend years and tons of money trying to find a flour that committe one likes, and you are not, repeat not, going to be able to purchase that flour at the same price you would have years ago, if you had just been able to make the pie years ago. Costs rise, too many government, environmental, and social groups make us the laughing stock of the world. Check out how long it took France and Japan and the UK to build their facilities, then spend one hour of your life researching all the regulations and changes and objections that are spent on one single item, like paint color for the outside of the building, in this country. Oh, and don't forget, when the workers get tired of the burden of regulation, and quit the job and move on, then new workers come in, and look at something and decide the original plan is wrong, and demand re-design, COSTS ARE GOING TO RISE!!!!!!!! We are being EPA'd and regulated to death. No pipe lines, no refineries, no new nuclear plants, regulate coal plants to death and bankrupt them like POTUS promised, hear no, no, no to every new project needed to keep our country running, but rally and protect the blasted frogs, mollusks, lizards, birds, fleas, spiders, invasive plants, blind fish in caves, wetlands in the desert, turtles too stupid to not cross a busy road, hey, they will all be fine, while us, humans suffer because of over-regulation...put the blame where it belongs, OVER REGULATION, and let me know what year you get your pie baked, you only had to deal with committee one, 149 more to go.....

jebsdaddy
5
Points
jebsdaddy 03/21/13 - 09:21 pm
1
0
From the inside

I worked at the Mox Project for 2.5 years as a mechanical engineer and it was the most messed up thing I have ever been a part of. The management didn't understand basic design procedures and it became more of a cut and paste of an existing design to look like a new design. At least from a distance. Massive weldments would look ok but in reality might be inches or even feet off from what they should be. You would only find this out when it came time to bolt it in place. Bills of materials would not match the assembly drawing. The sad part is all of this could easily been avoided if experienced people were steering the ship. The original budget was less than 2 billion and now it is moving to 8 billion with no end in sight not to mention 10 years behind. What a shame and waste.

SCEagle Eye
958
Points
SCEagle Eye 03/22/13 - 12:23 pm
1
0
mysterious MOX plants in other countries?

GetRealNow - Please let us know where all these MOX plants that were built so fast in other countries are located. The UK was never operate the MOX plant, which was a total disaster, and closed it; Japan is dragging its feet in building a MOX plant (and after five years can't start it's $20-billion reprocessing plant). France is the only country with a government-financed MOX plant. The SRS MOX plant is a copy of the French MELOX plant and the transfer of that French technology to US standards isn't going so well. Some say that the SRS MOX plant will never work simply because of inability to adopt the MELOX plant design for a facility to process US weapons-grades plutonium. Managers of the MOX boondoggle may want this technical excuse rather than total mismanagement of costs as the reason it all collapses. Who will be held accountable for this mess, which is gouging the taxpayer? Let's get real right now and identify who in DOE, Shaw and AREVA is accountable for the MOX cost explosion, a violation of the public trust.

GetRealNow
5
Points
GetRealNow 03/22/13 - 08:45 am
0
1
If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it

SCEagle Eye

If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. If it stops moving, subsidise it.

You stated it plain and simple..."The SRS MOX pant is a copy of the French MELOX plant and the transfer of that French technology to US standards isn't going so well. " I also assume you meant plant instead of pant.

If the design was good enough for France, why is it not good enough for the USA??? Too Many Regulations....too much government...

steven rowe
4
Points
steven rowe 03/22/13 - 10:11 am
0
0
Estimating this project,,problem !! LOL well well

Major problem with estimating & Safety of this project started 3 years ago with hiring of young and hip Obama HR headHunter companys,I can tell you personnal they care less if project is done on time And if safety is being applyed most of all if anyone have any type of experience as long as they met new hip ways of their useless Trade school ITT,,BUT that not funny part their one other site in SC that wrost off their 2 old FDR earth dam's that are melting just above a nuker power plant,,part that funny Duke is spend 100's million dollars to rebuild the nuker plant ANd add a safety 7' foot T X 30 foot high conceret wall around plant so if dam brake or melts IT MET be save..LOL .. Why not fix dam's that giving power for 70 years this also been going on last 3 years along side this site.. Let you know because it same clown HR Heathunter company that hiring for all these nuker sites,,As a very Exp estimator their not going change.. the NRA and Duke are jeck knee to Prez obama so get permits

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