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Budget casts MOX doubts

Monday, April 15, 2013 3:56 PM
Last updated 7:30 PM
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The U.S. Energy Department released full details Monday of its fiscal 2014 budget, raising more doubts about the future of the half-finished MOX project under construction at Savannah River Site.

In a brief summary shared last week, the administration slashed $132.7 million, or 29.3 percent, from the project’s 2014 construction budget, citing rising costs that may have rendered the plant “unaffordable.”

In a detailed budget posted Monday, the administration firmed up plans to “assess alternatives” and declined to budget any MOX funds in “out year” projections from 2015 to 2018.

Allocations for those years were listed as “TBD,” or “to be decided” after other options are explored and a “decision” is made.

The plant, designed to dispose of surplus plutonium by blending it into commercial nuclear fuel, has become increasingly expensive, with construction costs recently revised from from $4.9 billion to $7.7 billion.

The budget for the National Nuclear Security Administration, which manages the MOX program, also said the plant’s life cycle operating costs had risen.

The plant’s mission is to dispose of 34 metric tons of plutonium from dismantled warheads. The projected operating cost over the 13-year mission was listed as $7.1 billion last year, the budget said, but has increased to $8.2 billion, with the task now taking 15 years to complete.

Also rising are the projected operating costs of the waste solidification building that would manage the waste stream generated by the MOX facility.

Previous estimates, the budget said, called for just over $1 billion in operating costs over 15 years. The newest figure estimates that cost at $1.9 billion, over 20 years.

“Cost growth and fiscal pressure may make these projects unaffordable, so the Administration is conducting an assessment of alternative plutonium disposition strategies and identifying options for FY 2014 and the outyears,” the budget said.

“As a result, NNSA will slow down the MOX project and other activities associated with the current plutonium disposition strategy, including the Waste Solidification Building, during the assessment period.”

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Little Lamb
46958
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Little Lamb 04/15/13 - 04:27 pm
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Taxpayers

Maybe they could sell the surplus plutonium to Iran or North Korea. Taxpayers could reap a tidy profit.

SCEagle Eye
921
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SCEagle Eye 04/15/13 - 09:42 pm
4
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Graham isolated on MOX

Senator Graham is the last politician in Congress with any influence who supports the mismanaged MOX program. (Nobody counts Rep. Joe Wilson.) The stage is set for Lindsey vs everyone else in trying to save a wounded MOX program from the rubbish bin. He should be prepared to ask why AREVA has been lying about the MOX plant cost, which will likely be much more than the $7.7 billion that DOE finally admitted in the budget documents, and reveal that information publicly.

KSL
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KSL 04/16/13 - 12:00 am
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First waste a ton of money on

First waste a ton of money on Yucca Mt. Now on MOX. Eagle Eye, you seem to know so very much. Just what is your solution? You criticize a lot, but offer no alternatives.

SCEagle Eye
921
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SCEagle Eye 04/16/13 - 07:42 am
4
3
plutonium as waste

From the git-go, plutonium should have been managed as nuclear waste and not a nuclear weapons material to introduce into commerce. The political decision under G.W. Bush to kill plutonium immobilization and pursue the most expensive and problematic option - MOX (begun under Clinton) - was a political and fiscal blunder that the big-government crowd celebrated as many have gotten rich off the taxpayer. Now, there must secure storage first, then proceed to immobilization and disposal as waste. Some SRS plutonium has gone to the disposal facility (WIPP) in New Mexico and more is slated to be shipped. If you cling to MOX, it's your turn to please explain where the billions that don't exist will come from to pay for the mismanaged program. I'm not hearing from anyone inside government, including Lindsey Graham, or outside government how the MOX program would be paid for. Do you think that big-government should just keep signing a blank check for a program of unknown costs ($25 billion???) and keep running up the debt off the back of the taxpayer? If not, please explain, in detail, where the money that doesn't exist will come from.

Humble Angela
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Humble Angela 04/16/13 - 09:14 am
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There is only one way to make
Unpublished

There is only one way to make plutonium completely unusable as a nuclear bomb. That is by fissioning it. All other options still leave you with weapons grade plutonium, only harder to use. If you "burn" in in a reactor, then it is no longer plutonium, and can no longer be used to detonate an atomic or hydrogen device. Not to mention, it is quite wasteful to simply throw away all of the energy that we have already spent countless treasure to create.

Where will the money to dispose of plutonium come from? Keep in mind that as long as it is still plutonium, it will ALWAYS require more heightened security than the waste product.

Humble Angela
41338
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Humble Angela 04/16/13 - 09:15 am
3
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Why does "nobody count Joe
Unpublished

Why does "nobody count Joe Wilson?"

Little Lamb
46958
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Little Lamb 04/16/13 - 09:49 am
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Pay as you go

SCEagle Eye posted:

If you cling to MOX, it's your turn to please explain where the billions that don't exist will come from to pay for the mismanaged program.

The money can come from the same place the money came to bail out the banks, GM & Chrysler, all Obama's campaign contributor kickbacks, food stamps, etc. — Ben Bernanke can just print the money to finish the MOX facility.

Angela is correct — there is a lot of usable energy in that plutonium.

Bubba
144
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Bubba 04/16/13 - 10:05 am
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Other alternatives have been

Other alternatives have been considered-- More than a decade ago. Because cost estimates are understated doesn't make estimators liars. There has been precious little need for NQA-1 work in this country. Getting shops up to speed to be NQA-1 certified for MOX, Vogtle, Summer, and other nuclear project has been slower and more expensive than Estimated. 60% finished and people want to pull the plug. That's what wasteful beyond my comprehension. Stay the course. You want to pull the plug on something, take a look at the vitirifcation facility under construction at Hanford. Now there's a mess for ya.

We spent a fortune making this plutonium, the thought of vitrifying it is insulting and not well thought out. It's a path considered and rejected. Wilson and Graham aren't the only ones ticked about this. I'll bet Clyburn isn't a bit happy either, and he being a powerful democrat, the president should pay him some attention as well.

The French have been using MOX Fuel since they could build plants to make it after Carter sold them the technology in 1977. (A decidedly horrible decision not to close the fuel rod cycle then.)

500 Million a year to guard it. We fiddle (considering other alternatives.) while we "burn" through that 500 Million a year. Unbelievable. I wonder how much we will spend and how long we take considering other alternatives. The nay-sayers are right about one thing, slow MOX to consider those alternatives and any talent there will move on, and they won't come back.

Humble Angela
41338
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Humble Angela 04/16/13 - 10:12 am
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Spending billions to make
Unpublished

Spending billions to make plutonium, then spending money to vitrify it in glass would be analogous to spending money to refine gasoline, then spending more money to solidify it in concrete. It simply makes no sense.

GiantsAllDay
9853
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GiantsAllDay 04/16/13 - 11:19 am
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Angela, please name me ONE

Angela, please name me ONE (just one will do) electrical utility that wants MOX as fuel. It burns much hotter than uranium oxide fuel. I'm talking linear heat rate (kw/ln ft). Any utility GA Pwr, Duke, TVA, etc would have to make very expensive changes to the plant's technical specifications and get NRC aprroval EVEN if they wanted this garbage (and they don't). SCEagleEye knows whereof he speaks. Let this thing die BEFORE the building get contaminated resulting in more $$$ to decommission.

Little Lamb
46958
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Little Lamb 04/16/13 - 11:42 am
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Hotter

It seems to me that with careful blending, you could make MOX fuel perform essentially the same as uranium-only fuel.

Little Lamb
46958
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Little Lamb 04/16/13 - 11:45 am
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Truth

In response to SCEagle Eye's first post, Humble Angela asked:

Why does "nobody count Joe Wilson?"

I guess it's because he told the truth to Obama. No other politician ever did that before.

GiantsAllDay
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GiantsAllDay 04/16/13 - 12:43 pm
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So, Angela and

So, Angela and LittleLamb,
You are "if you build it, they will come" kind of people?
Remember, as of now, there are no takers.
Zip. Zero. Nada. Null. The empty set.

Humble Angela
41338
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Humble Angela 04/16/13 - 02:40 pm
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"It burns much hotter than
Unpublished

"It burns much hotter than uranium oxide fuel. I'm talking linear heat rate (kw/ln ft)."

This statement is telling of the lack of knowledge of reactor physics. The temperature of a reactor is controlled by the amount of reactivity in the core. Reactivity is controlled by adding/removing burnable poisons, or inserting/removing control rods. Little lamb, you are correct....plutonium burns no hotter than any other reactor fuel.

And here's a paper from the NRC about TWO utilities that plan to use MOX.

http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/mox-bg.html

digmick
20
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digmick 04/16/13 - 02:00 pm
0
0
Cut Government!

Oh wait, not when it impacts us. Don't touch SRS, Fort Gordon, Thurmond Lake, etc.

Humble Angela
41338
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Humble Angela 04/16/13 - 03:44 pm
1
1
So...I gave you TWO
Unpublished

So...I gave you TWO facilities that are scheduled to use MOX (Catawba and McGuire...not sure how you "read the reference" and missed that), and showed how you are wrong about Pu burning hotter, so you resort to name calling and obscene postings? Nice one GAD.

Also a bit presumptuous of you to say I'm from Augusta......but try not to let facts get in the way.

Riverman1
86958
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Riverman1 04/16/13 - 03:40 pm
1
0
If that's the case, I wish I

If that's the case, I wish I had some $$$ in MOX.

Riverman1
86958
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Riverman1 04/16/13 - 03:43 pm
0
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So you guys tell me where we

So you guys tell me where we stand now? Accumulating this stuff with no plans to get rid of it? A possibility of doing something with it. You guys are the experts in the comments that I listen to much more than the actual story.

GiantsAllDay
9853
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GiantsAllDay 04/16/13 - 03:55 pm
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2
Angie, what do define as

Angie, what do define as obscene? I thought I was being nice. I gave you time to run off to your resources.

Humble Angela
41338
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Humble Angela 04/16/13 - 04:12 pm
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You honestly don't think it's
Unpublished

You honestly don't think it's obscene to accuse a woman of sleeping with someone?

As for " I gave you time to run off to your resources."

For starters, I have no idea what you are talking about, nor do I require YOUR permission to "run off" anywhere.

Little Lamb
46958
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Little Lamb 04/16/13 - 04:38 pm
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MOX vs. Patch

The MOX facility and the federal government reminds me of The Patch and Augusta government. Neither facility is intended to make money. They are considered amenities to provide a societal good at taxpayer expense.

The MOX dudes are going to take those plutonium pits and turn them into money pits.

SCEagle Eye
921
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SCEagle Eye 04/16/13 - 10:34 pm
0
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accountability?

Though MOX is on its knees and its unclear what will happen from this point forward - who will be held accountable for the MOX cost overrun debacle? Will big government turns its head, as usual, or will DOE and Shaw AREVA officials be held accountable? Firings should be swift and run deep in the management heirarchy.

JimHopf
15
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JimHopf 04/17/13 - 02:06 am
1
0
Disposal Not a Solution

There is a simple and profound difference between burning the plutonium in MOX (thereby destroying it, not to mention generating valuable pollution and CO2-emissions free power) and just burying the stuff. One approach eliminates the plutonium, while the other does not. Apparently, some here are somehow impressed by the fact that a non-solution is somewhat less expensive than an actual, real solution.

Even worse is the blatent hypocrisy of the anti-nukes on this subject. One of their primary stated reasons for opposing nuclear power is.....

wait for it........

nuclear waste (spent fuel) contains plutonium and burying plutonium involves unaccpetable long-term environmental risks.

You literally can't make this stuff up. It's clear that they have a baseless, arbitrary (and indefensible) taboo against generating power with the atom (or doing anything with nuclear technology).

Humble Angela
41338
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Humble Angela 04/17/13 - 07:10 am
2
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GiantsAllDay....if this type
Unpublished

GiantsAllDay....if this type of obscene posting is all you are capable of, you can just go unanswered. You have previously been answered, and given facts to which you reply that you know more than other people....without demonstrating it. Please...tell us why you would expect a -1/3 decade per minute startup rate after a reactor scram? Explain why Xe is a major concern during a restart after a scram? Explain how the negative temperature coefficient affects reactivity at different steam demands. Define neutron buckling. I didn't get this information from Google, and I doubt you will answer these questions. More likely you will accuse me of sleeping around, which seems to be your fall back point.

GiantsAllDay
9853
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GiantsAllDay 04/17/13 - 09:54 am
0
2
LOL Angie

Who is your source. Certainly the AC Can see this by now

Humble Angela
41338
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Humble Angela 04/17/13 - 11:03 am
2
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My source is my training,
Unpublished

My source is my training, experience, and education. If you can't answer my questions, simply say so, or if as you claim, you can "google as good as me" then google it up and answer them.

Certainly the AC can see what? What are you talking about?

Humble Angela
41338
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Humble Angela 04/17/13 - 02:18 pm
2
0
Hmmmm
Unpublished

Over 3 hours and can't find the answers on google? It's ok....keep looking.

Bubba
144
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Bubba 04/17/13 - 04:21 pm
1
0
Wow...

Just to add my 2 cents again. Eagle Eye is convinced of malfeasance where I see none. Stopping now and throwing away all the work that’s been done? Now that is an idea that is just so incredibly ridiculous, and wateful as well. So what’s the plan? You want to stop and vitrify this waste? It will cost Way more than the road you are on now, you spend, as Angela rightly notes, 40 years and billions making this plutonium, just to put a half a cup or so in glass in a stainless steel container? (How big are those containers? 14 or 16 feet tall?) Divide that half a cup until you’ve dispersed into 34 metric tons and how many containers is that? There are "temporary" storage buildings now with no permanent home. SRS will be a farm of those buildings if they decided to vitrify this pltoniumn. That's probably one reason the vitrification was decided against previously. There’s a massive difference between low level sludge in glass and weapons grade plutonium. Massive…

On the burn side, I can't claim the scientific IQ Angela has, but here's a common sense problem. When the naysayers get a foothold, and I'm sure the naysayers excited. Well, if you are a utility out there, are you going to commit to testing of MOX Fuel, when you get gloom and doom in the papers, budget cuts, etc? No, you are going to wait until its closer to finished and producing to commit to testing MOX Fuel. That's just common sense on the part of the utility. To reemphasize a point I think that has been made earlier, fissioning is the only way to make this plutonium unusable in a Nuclear Weapon. The electricity produced is bonus people. Making it not able to go boom is the biggest goal, and this is the only 100 sure way to achieve that.

Humble Angela
41338
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Humble Angela 04/17/13 - 06:10 pm
1
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Seven hours and still
Unpublished

Seven hours and still nothing......

SCEagle Eye
921
Points
SCEagle Eye 04/20/13 - 09:24 am
1
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DOE, AREVA unreliable partners

The gross mismanagement of the MOX project, the massive cost overruns, the continuous design problems, the compounding delays, the total lack of accountability, and the growing questions about the program all point to what Duke Energy learned when they pulled out of the MOX project in 2008: DOE and AREVA are unreliable partners. Any utility that would make a decision to team up with the MOX gang has been duly warned. You will be going down a rocky path that likely won't end well. Meanwhile, AREVA keeps counting the billions it is raking in off the mismanaged program. When will the egregious mismanagement be ended? No matter the science around use of weapons-grade MOX, which has never been used commercially, where is accountability for the boondoggle???? It's time for "good government" officials and fiscal conservatives to push aside the special interests which have run this project till now.

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