Oversight agency explores Department of Energy's MOX management

Friday, Aug 9, 2013 4:35 PM
Last updated Saturday, Aug 10, 2013 1:55 AM
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A government oversight agency wants to determine whether delays and cost increases at Savannah River Site’s MOX project might have been avoided if planners had completed design work before issuing cost and completion schedules.

In a July 24 report to the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, officials with the Government Accountability Office shared observations on the U.S. Department of Energy’s management challenges.

Among the projects cited was the National Nuclear Security Administration’s mixed oxide plant in South Carolina, where construction costs were revised from $4.9 billion to more than $7.7 billion this year, with a three-year completion delay.

“According to NNSA officials and the contractor for the MOX facility, inadequately designed critical system components, such as the gloveboxes to be used for handling plutonium and the infrastructure needed to support these gloveboxes, are among the primary reasons for the proposed cost increase and schedule delay,” the GAO said.

Although the NNSA has a policy of setting cost and schedule baselines only after completing 90 percent of design work, that guidance was issued in 2012 – several years after cost and schedules were issued for the MOX project.

“As part of our ongoing review of NNSA’s Plutonium Disposition Program, we are evaluating whether such guidance would have been useful for NNSA to apply to the MOX facility, as well as the potential impact this guidance might have had on mitigating cost increases and schedule delays,” the GAO report said.

The MOX project, designed to blend plutonium from surplus nuclear bombs into commercial reactor fuel, is under scrutiny from congressional budget writers because of its spiraling costs.

The DOE’s fiscal year 2014 budget proposal calls for reduced funding for the construction program, which officials have said could lead to layoffs for as many as 500 of the project’s 1,900 workers.

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SCEagle Eye
SCEagle Eye 08/09/13 - 08:05 pm
silence can't hide MOX problems

DOE/NNSA is staunchly refusing to say why the release of the environmental impact statement on MOX use has been delayed since January 2013. The most recent schedule had it being released in July, so that date has lone gone. So it goes with this mismanaged program - repeated delays and cost overrun after cost overrun have become the norm as DOE/NNSA can't and/or won't address chronic mismanagement problems. Throw in almost total secrecy about simple things concerning all aspects of the MOX project that have nothing at all to do with security - like the environmental document - and you've got a recipe for a failed program. No wonder cuts are coming and panic growing. As is usual with these failed big-government projects, the tax payer gets the shaft.

GiantsAllDay 08/10/13 - 10:09 am
It's one big cluster $&@!

It's one big cluster $&@! Those who continue to support this are just embarrassing themselves, the cost of which is greed. The good news is this project will be abandoned. The bad news is that it won't be abandoned right away. Billions more $$$ still to be spent and wasted.

FormerMOX 08/10/13 - 03:58 pm
Real issues of the project

The real issue of the program is the use of a French design, not based on US construction and equipment codes. They must have thought it would be a direct copy of the original plans, when in actuality it is very difficult and costly to translate designs based on one code to another (European/International codes translated to US codes). Additionally, contractors are not prepared or trained to build according to US nuclear requirements as no nuclear facilities have been built in many years. Hence costs exceeding what anyone thinks they can do it for initially. I think whoever concocted this plan from the get go should have had some expert advice on the detailed engineering and design that it would take to complete this endeavor.

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