SRS and MOX workers await fiscal 2014 budget plan

The cost of the mixed oxide fuel plant under construction at Savannah River Site has risen from $4.9 billion to $7.7 billion, stirring concern the project could be stalled by budget cuts.

The U.S. Energy Department is poised to unveil its fiscal 2014 budget requests Wednesday, including plans for Savannah River Site and the National Nuclear Security Administration’s mixed oxide fuel facility.

The release of the spending plan will be made by Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman, and will outline “the Administration’s commitment to an all-of-the-above energy strategy that prioritizes investments in innovation, clean energy technologies, and our national security strategy.”

Savannah River Site is already operating under sequestration cuts that required a work schedule reduction – from 40 hours per week to 32 hours – for approximately 2,600 employees of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions.

Also under heightened financial scrutiny in recent months has been the MOX plant, which employs about 2,300 workers.

The Government Accountability Office revealed last month that the projected cost of the MOX project has risen by $2.8 billion – to $7.7 billion – and will take three years longer than planned to complete.

Although MOX was unaffected by sequestration cuts, observers say it is likely the plutonium disposition facility could take a financial hit in fiscal 2014.

Kelly Trice, the president of Shaw AREVA MOX Ser­vices – which is building the MOX plant – acknowledged budget concerns last week, but also said he believes the project still has the administration’s support.

A critic of the project, Friends of the Earth, predicted in a new report issued Tuesday that the plant’s future costs will expand to $22 billion.

Expenses beyond the plant’s basic construction costs, the group said, include administrative buildings and administrative costs, yearly MOX plant operating costs, MOX plant start-up costs, plutonium feedstock preparation, a facility to treat MOX waste and waste disposal costs, and payment to utilities to use MOX fuel in their nuclear reactors and final decommissioning of facilities.

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