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MOX facility at Savannah River Site placed on standby while alternatives assessed

Tuesday, March 4, 2014 7:34 PM
Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 10:11 AM
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The National Nuclear Security Administration will begin shutting down Savannah River Site’s mixed-oxide fuel fabrication facility while it assesses alternative ways to dispose of plutonium.

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The mixed-oxide fuel fabrication facility at Savannah River Site has cost taxpayers $3.9 billion, according the National Nuclear Security Administration. It is about 60 percent complete.  FILE/STAFF
FILE/STAFF
The mixed-oxide fuel fabrication facility at Savannah River Site has cost taxpayers $3.9 billion, according the National Nuclear Security Administration. It is about 60 percent complete.

In recent years, the Obama administration has slowed funding for the MOX project that has cost taxpayers $3.9 billion on so far, according to the NNSA. Cost estimates for the program’s life cycle had risen to $30 billion.

The administration said in its fiscal 2015 budget proposal released Tuesday that a yearlong review of the MOX program signaled a need for quicker, more cost-effective methods to dispose of surplus Russian and U.S. weapons-grade plutonium.

“A review of this approach has determined that the MOX fuel approach is significantly more expensive than planned and it is not viable within the (fiscal year)2015 funding levels,” according to the budget proposal summary. “The Department of Energy is developing alternative approaches to plutonium disposition and will engage with stakeholders to determine a viable alternative. As a result, the MOX project will be placed in cold standby while an alternative approach is determined.”

The MOX plant – which is about 60 percent complete with a current workforce of about 1,800 – would be the first of its kind in the U.S. to create commercial nuclear fuel from weapons-grade plutonium and represents an international nonproliferation effort.

Last year, the Government Accountability Office said that the project was more than three years behind its 2016 completion deadline and that construction costs were revised from $4.9 billion to $7.7 billion.

Resuming the program after a cold standby would require a significant cost reduction, the NNSA said Tuesday in a media briefing. Other options for plutonium disposition will be analyzed in the coming 12 to 18 months.

“What we mean by (cold standby) is that we would perform activities associated with protecting the facility and equipment from elements and ensuring they are maintained,” said Anne Harrington, the deputy administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation.

“We will protect the investment should the project be restarted or used for something different,” Harrington said.

Construction began on the 600,000-square-foot facility in 2007.

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said Tuesday that the administration was committed to the 2000 U.S.-Russia agreement to dispose of 68 metric tons of surplus plutonium but that MOX costs had spiraled out of control.

“We have a task force that’s been working at this very hard for the past nine months. They are continuing to work with contractors to see if we can get a substantial cost reduction,” Moniz said.

Of the $1.6 billion proposed for the NNSA’s nonproliferation efforts in the president’s budget, $221 million was allotted to shutter the MOX facility. Cuts to MOX represented more than half of nonproliferation’s 20 percent funding reduction, Moniz said.

MOX construction received $452.7 million in fiscal 2012, $487.7 million under a 2013 continuing resolution and $343.5 million in the spending bill passed in January.

Tom Clements, a critic of the MOX project and an adviser for the South Carolina chapter of the Sierra Club, said the proposal was overdue.

“We have long called on DOE to abandon the mismanaged MOX project and implement viable disposition alternatives, and this request finally gets DOE on the right track,” Clements said.

Some South Carolina lawmakers who have long backed the MOX project blasted the Obama administration for cutting its funding.

“(The president’s) decision to dramatically reduce funding for the MOX program, to a point that raises serious questions about its viability, represents a fundamental breach of trust with the residents of South Carolina,” said U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican.

Republican Rep. Joe Wilson said escalating tensions between Ukraine and Russia underscore the need for nuclear nonproliferation.

“The president is failing to uphold vital nonproliferation agreements and ongoing environment cleanup missions by essentially terminating MOX at the Savannah River Site,” Wilson said. “This project plays an integral role in honoring international agreements with Russia.”

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Gage Creed
19430
Points
Gage Creed 03/04/14 - 07:57 pm
1
5
There is an alternate way to

There is an alternate way to dispose of SNM...

willie Lee
423
Points
willie Lee 03/04/14 - 08:08 pm
0
0
Mismanagement!
Unpublished

The mismanagement of this project by Shaw, LLC and Chicago Bridge and Iron, Inc. has now led to the loss of thousands of jobs for the CSRA. These companies hired people who had no idea how to manage a large construction project and then allowed these managers to bring in their friends (fleas is the slang term) to be placed in positions of authority which was way over their heads. These companies then paid premium prices for the material and equipment, mostly from foreign companies, that generated even more cost. They also allowed Areva, a French company to carry personal on the overhead of the project while doing nothing to assist in its completion. DOE and the NRC were on site the entire time and watched as this opportunity went down the tube.

Riverman1
94211
Points
Riverman1 03/04/14 - 08:34 pm
7
0
I wonder how many employees

I wonder how many employees will be let go?

dwb619
104650
Points
dwb619 03/04/14 - 08:57 pm
7
0
employees

I would imagine all the construction crafts will be gone in short order.

SCEagle Eye
959
Points
SCEagle Eye 03/04/14 - 09:17 pm
7
2
MOX whining

All the whining about MOX by Graham and Wilson reveals it was a big-government jobs program all along. By blocking alternatives and never holding anyone accountable for massive cost overruns, they are in large part responsible for this huge MOX mess and that plutonium is now stranded in South Carolina. Will they step up to the plate and own the debacle they created? You know the answer to that one.

dwb619
104650
Points
dwb619 03/04/14 - 09:45 pm
4
1
Gage Creed

Encapsulation?

jimmymac
48001
Points
jimmymac 03/04/14 - 10:42 pm
1
0
MOX
Unpublished

The loss of MOX will undue nearly all the job gains from the cyber command center. This will be felt throughout the CSRA, big time.

bubbasauce
24260
Points
bubbasauce 03/04/14 - 10:50 pm
7
3
What has Obama did for "YOU"

What has Obama did for "YOU" lately? He's the greatest President ever! Not!!! He has shut this Country down! What a joke.

GiantsAllDay
10551
Points
GiantsAllDay 03/04/14 - 11:14 pm
5
3
The real story here is why it

The real story here is why it took so long. But then again we already know the answer to that. Can't wait for the guest column from Dr. Clint Wolfe that is certainly to come this Sunday.

KSL
144450
Points
KSL 03/05/14 - 01:07 am
5
3
Finally, Obama's punishment

Finally, Obama's punishment for Aiken County being a Republican stronghold.

ColCo
927
Points
ColCo 03/05/14 - 06:05 am
5
3
KSL

You have hit the nail on the head.

Dixieman
17550
Points
Dixieman 03/05/14 - 06:34 am
7
2
The Federal government...

...is getting stupider every day.
And you can't fix stupid.
Please, 2016 election, come soon!!!

DawgnSC69
287
Points
DawgnSC69 03/05/14 - 07:30 am
6
1
Union Construction Jobs the First To Go

I hope all of those union workers are getting the "Hope and Change" they voted for.

If this was a non-government project, this facility would be up and running by now.

Pond Life
17682
Points
Pond Life 03/05/14 - 07:30 am
8
1
Yes there ARE alternative
Unpublished

Yes there ARE alternative ways to dispose of Pu, other than MOX, but why on Earth would you want to dispose of it? We invested billions of dollars to create the Pu, and now you just want to throw it away? There is so much unused energy potential it would be beyond wasteful to simply dispose of it. The problem with MOX is NOT the idea, it's the management, or mismanagement of the project.

edcushman
7930
Points
edcushman 03/05/14 - 08:09 am
6
1
"The problem with MOX is NOT
Unpublished

"The problem with MOX is NOT the idea, it's the management, or mismanagement of the project."
Pond Life, this is a good example of how the government manages things and the Post Office is another. I can hardly wait for them to take over our health care.

edcushman
7930
Points
edcushman 03/05/14 - 08:11 am
6
2
" Finally, Obama's punishment
Unpublished

" Finally, Obama's punishment for Aiken County being a Republican stronghold."
KSL, you're spot on. Valerie Jarrett said that they would punish their enemies and they are.

at0mgrrl
18
Points
at0mgrrl 03/05/14 - 08:29 am
2
7
Ding Dong! the MOX is DEAD!

MOX is the Mother of All Boondoggles. The plutonium is the Frankenstein of our age, phenomenally dangerous and an unnatural member of Creation. Besides, for the MOX program to complete the mission its unwanted fuel has to be irradiated in a reactor, which no one has been willing to do. The MOX factory to nowhere has been 60% finished for many years. Beware the CB&I contractors, also mismanaging Summer and Vogtle (which just received $6.5 BILLION tax dollars). Wake up America! Robber barons in the house!!

Meanwhile, the junk plutonium at SRS, unsuitable feed for the MOX process anyway, can be reunited in the glassification program with its own waste which is now leaking from the tanks and go to a repository. Right livelihood for a new generation of heroic workers.

Godzilla help us!

Read more about MOX and plutonium at http://www.nuclearwatchsouth.org

Riverman1
94211
Points
Riverman1 03/05/14 - 10:34 am
6
1
Yucca Mt. By Default

SRS is Yucca Mountain By Default. A term I coined that a few politicians use to my glee. But what's one or two millions years until the stuff is safe? Nevada gets billions of dollars and the radioactive material is never stored there. We get nothing and it's sent here. At least pay the lady.

Pond Life
17682
Points
Pond Life 03/05/14 - 10:36 am
4
1
TVA has said they will use
Unpublished

TVA has said they will use MOX fuel, but don't expect them to build new units if they aren't sure there will be fuel for them. As for so called "junk plutonium" it is clear you don't know what you are talking about. Pu from PITs is perfect for MOX fuel. You blend it with U oxide to get MOX.

And MOX fuel is not "irradiated" in a reactor. Irradiation is the process used to CREATE the Pu whereby U238 is irradiated to transmute to Pu239, then it is "burned" in a reactor.

t3bledsoe
14291
Points
t3bledsoe 03/05/14 - 11:36 am
1
1
Pond Life @ 10:36

I am constently amazed at your vast knowledge of multipul subjects!! You are correct that weapons grade Pu is made by "irratiating" Uranium. BUT everything in a reactor is "irratiated" because there is so much "radiation" that is created in the reactor. I get the feeling that you have worked at SRS or worked in the nuclear industry somewhere. Also, I do agree with your thoughts about MOX, BUT I don't agree with how the US Dept. of Energy has allowed these contractors to spend 100's of millions of dollars over budget!! Maybe that is why Obama MUST send a message to Rebublicans Graham and the rest of the Rebublicans in SC!!

Pond Life
17682
Points
Pond Life 03/05/14 - 11:39 am
2
1
Nuclear power, yes.
Unpublished

Nuclear power, yes. Government run, NO!

And yes....everything in the core gets irradiated. I was just correcting the seemingly misunderstood use of the term.

t3bledsoe
14291
Points
t3bledsoe 03/05/14 - 11:56 am
3
0
Pond Life @ 11:39

"
Nuclear power, yes. Government run, NO!

And yes....everything in the core gets irradiated. I was just correcting the seemingly misunderstood use of the term."

Yes, you MUST work in the nuclear industry!! I do agree that MOX fuel would work and therefore should be used instead of just trashing it! To go along with this similar topic, I truly believe that Yuca Mountain was terminated because Sen. Reid probably asked that it be terminated.

t3bledsoe
14291
Points
t3bledsoe 03/05/14 - 12:06 pm
1
0
KSL @ 1:07 AM

"
Finally, Obama's punishment for Aiken County being a Republican stronghold."

Can you REALLY say this statement if Obama's budget is passed?

BTW: Thanks for your tip that you made via e-mail!!

t3bledsoe
14291
Points
t3bledsoe 03/05/14 - 12:15 pm
1
0
Dixieman @ 6:34 AM

"
"...is getting stupider every day.
And you can't fix stupid.
Please, 2016 election, come soon!!!"

Speaking of the election, if the Republican Party's nominee is Ted Cruz, you-all may-as-well GIVE THE ELECTION to the Democrats again!! The best candidate FOR BOTH PARTIES would be Joe Mansion!

FastFission
31
Points
FastFission 03/05/14 - 01:45 pm
2
1
The Next Project

The NNSA project mangers placed by Dr. Chu can now transfer to the bullet train project in CA. Expect the same results?

edcushman
7930
Points
edcushman 03/05/14 - 02:13 pm
2
1
" The best candidate FOR BOTH
Unpublished

" The best candidate FOR BOTH PARTIES would be Joe Mansion!"
Who in the hell is 'Joe Mansion'?

Pond Life
17682
Points
Pond Life 03/05/14 - 03:27 pm
4
1
Joe Mansion?
Unpublished

Why would a Democrat be the best candidate for the Republicans? Your logic is quite deniable.

SCEagle Eye
959
Points
SCEagle Eye 03/05/14 - 05:06 pm
2
2
MOX socialism?

It's a real hoot to see that some people in the area who might call themselves "conservatives" sure love that federal big-government money and expect it to keep flowing in for any and all projects at the Savannah River Site. You may want to check on things but 1) the government is under budget stress and can't forever fund a bottomless program like MOX 2) there is no obligation by tax payers to forever funnel money into the area for SRS projects, 3) dependence on federal dollars might not at all be "conservative" and 4) expectations that federal make-work dollars will keep flowing in may actually be a lot like socialism, right?! The Peoples Republic of Aiken should perhaps wake up to the idea of fiscal constraint and adjust accordingly.

Pond Life
17682
Points
Pond Life 03/06/14 - 06:10 am
1
1
I've said all along, I love
Unpublished

I've said all along, I love the idea of MOX, but hate the government management of it.

t3bledsoe
14291
Points
t3bledsoe 03/06/14 - 08:29 am
1
0
Pond Life@ 3:27 PM 3/5/14

"
Why would a Democrat be the best candidate for the Republicans? Your logic is quite deniable."

FIRST: A very good morning to you AND I am going to refer to you as PL since Pond Life takes more typing AND I can't type OR SPELL!!

Now, about Mansion. I personally believe that Mansion "is a conservative in Democratic clothing!!" I think The Republican Party should "woo" him over. I don't think it would take much and he would have 3 years to "woo" ALL of the moderate voters.

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