South Carolina sues Energy Department over MOX shutdown

Tuesday, March 18, 2014 2:57 PM
Last updated 11:19 PM
  • Follow Latest News

COLUMBIA — The state of South Carolina is suing the U.S. Department of Energy and others over federal plans to shut down Savannah River Site’s mixed-oxide fuel fabrication facility intended to turn nuclear weapons material into fuel for commercial nuclear reactors.

Gov. Nikki Haley and South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson announced the lawsuit Tuesday afternoon at a news conference in Columbia.

The lawsuit involving the MOX project was filed in U.S. District Court in Aiken and names the DOE, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and the National Nuclear Security Administration, which is managing the massive construction project, as defendants.

The lawsuit accuses the agency of using money that Congress approved to build the project to shut it down. The project is billions of dollars over budget.

“We will fight. We will fight back hard,” Haley said. “And we will do whatever it takes to make sure they understand they have messed with the wrong state.”

In the Obama administration’s fiscal 2015 budget proposal, the MOX plant was placed on “cold standby” while assessing other more cost-effective methods to dispose of weapons-grade plutonium. The NNSA began almost immediately consulting with contractors to shut down the construction project, which is about 60 percent complete.

Haley criticized the Obama administration for abandoning the project and its commitment to the state to dispose of nuclear waste.

“They made a promise to the people of South Carolina that they were going to do something with that plutonium. They cannot, for whatever reason this is, suddenly decide that they are going to go on cold standby. That’s not how we do business in South Carolina,” Haley said.

The announcement came on the heels of the NNSA budget proposal released over the weekend that confirmed the escalating costs of MOX. Life-cycle costs of the program were estimated at $30 billion.

Environmentalist Tom Clements, a critic of MOX, blasted the lawsuit, saying the state has no money invested in the project and no regulatory role.

MOX has evolved from a plutonium disposition program to a jobs program backed by state politicians, he said.

“Any lawsuit being filed by the State of South Carolina is being done for political reasons and will simply be a waste of taxpayer money,” said Clements, an advisor for the S.C. chapter of the Sierra Club.

The decision to put the project on hold has been met with opposition from some South Carolina Republicans, including Rep. Joe Wilson.

“The president’s reckless decision endangers our national security and confirms that the administration has no intention of following through with the federal government’s obligations to South Carolina as nuclear material remains in the Palmetto State without a foreseeable exit path,” Wilson said in a statement.

Wilson and U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott wrote a March 7 letter to Haley urging her to explore legal action over the MOX shutdown, saying it violates an international nonproliferation agreement between Russia and the U.S. to dispose of 34 metric tons of plutonium each.

After the press conference, Rep. Roland Smith, R-Warrenville, said he was worried the 1,800 MOX workers would leave the area, taking their skills elsewhere in search of new jobs.

Associated Press reports were used in this story.

Comments (15) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
Little Lamb
47275
Points
Little Lamb 03/18/14 - 04:04 pm
7
0
The Breaks

The government giveth. The government taketh away.

You just can't count on anything today.

SCEagle Eye
927
Points
SCEagle Eye 03/18/14 - 05:16 pm
5
2
MOX Madness season is here

News Flash! MOX boosters beg for big government to keep wasting money to run up the debt! Last vestige of fiscal conservatism in South Carolina is dead! Radicals show their true stripes in aiming to transfer more wealth from taxpayers to their MOX buddies. Ding dong MOX Madness is here!

Riverman1
87559
Points
Riverman1 03/18/14 - 05:20 pm
7
0
SCEagleEye, you've been

SCEagleEye, you've been informative and accurate about the MOX facility, but what about the waste on hand? SRS needs funding to secure it wouldn't you agree?

SCEagle Eye
927
Points
SCEagle Eye 03/18/14 - 06:09 pm
5
1
Pu dilemma

Any way you cut it all that plutonium is a problem and whatever is done will cost money and be at least somewhat controversial. For sure SRS needs adequate funding to continue to secure the plutonium at the site and for the main mission of the site - high-level waste management. I think we can all agree on that. There needs to be better dialogue by SRS management with the public about all aspects of SRS missions. The failure of MOX isn't the end of the world but an opportunity to do better and spend less. But if the WIPP facility in New Mexico goes down - due to the radiation release - that's a problem for SRS disposal of transuranic waste and plutonium. (Some surplus plutonium has already been sent to WIPP and more is packaged and ready to be shipped and DOE accepts that as a disposition path much cheaper than MOX.)

sawgrass
2010
Points
sawgrass 03/18/14 - 06:22 pm
6
2
SCEagleEye

You are wrong and off base. WIPP and vitrification is not the answer to plutonium disposal. The MOX is the only viable option. Plutonium has to be converted to where it cannot be used to develop a nuclear weapon. Vitrification can be reversed. The MOX is not a failure. Uninformed people like you mislead the public.

GiantsAllDay
9980
Points
GiantsAllDay 03/18/14 - 07:29 pm
6
3
I would like Meg Kinnard to

I would like Meg Kinnard to follow up on this story and investigate how much $$$ of the SC taxpayer money Nikki is willing to spend fighting this in court. She knows damn well that this could very well be tied up in the courts for years and the chances of SC prevailing in the end are very slim. Oh, but she did cut the unemployment insurance down to 20 weeks from 26 weeks because the state just couldn't afford the extra 6 weeks for people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own. After 5-6 years of litigation, when she finally loses, Nikki should have to pay all the legal fees out of her own pocket.

GiantsAllDay
9980
Points
GiantsAllDay 03/18/14 - 07:33 pm
5
5
Sawgrass, I don't know what

Sawgrass, I don't know what SCEagleEye's background is, but I know what mine is. Vitrification cannot be reversed after the melter process is complete. I'm really hoping you're not one of the highly skilled workers that the area is afraid of losing.
http://www.nci.org/b/berlin.htm

sawgrass
2010
Points
sawgrass 03/18/14 - 07:36 pm
6
3
GiantsAllDay

I'm not following your thought process. Gov. Halley does not want the state of South Carolina to become a nuclear dumping ground. The U.S. government has made a commitment to safely dispose of the plutonium at SRS. The MOX process converts the weapons grade plutonium to a useable nuclear fuel and when sold, create revenue. It is a win, win situation. What do you suggest?

sawgrass
2010
Points
sawgrass 03/18/14 - 07:40 pm
5
4
GiantsAllDay

I'm not sure what your background is, but in nuclear physics I know what my background is. The vitrification process can be reversed.

GiantsAllDay
9980
Points
GiantsAllDay 03/18/14 - 07:55 pm
6
2
Look, we've hashed this thing

Look, we've hashed this thing to death, so this is my last posting. There are NO buyers for this fuel. The plant retrofits plus the changes to the plant tech specs make it cost prohibitive. MOX supporters play the TVA card. News flash!!!!!! TVA is owned by the federal government! TVA will purchase the MOX fuel only if the Feds hold a gun to their head. Then it will be at a great loss to the taxpayer. Instead of drinking the kool aid, why don't you look into the reasons why Duke Power pulled out. Oh and why you're at it, make an appointment with the CEO of Georgia Power and ask him if he wants to buy some MOX fuel. He will laugh you out of his office.

sawgrass
2010
Points
sawgrass 03/18/14 - 08:08 pm
2
6
GiantsAllDay

Again you are incorrect. There ARE buyers for MOX fuel....4 to be exact. TVA is not the only customer. Not sure about the "drinking the koolaid" comment. Duke Power did not pull out, as you mistakenly said!! The MOX process benefits everyone.

GiantsAllDay
9980
Points
GiantsAllDay 03/18/14 - 08:13 pm
6
2
Name the 4. If you are

Name the 4. If you are correct, I will apologize.

dwb619
97883
Points
dwb619 03/18/14 - 09:56 pm
1
3
difference

Is there a difference in the plutonium obtained from a spent fuel rod versus weapons grade plutonium?
Just found this article about Duke Power and MOX:
www.nukefree.org/news/dukeenergyabandonsplutoniumtestingprogram

SCEagle Eye
927
Points
SCEagle Eye 03/19/14 - 09:37 am
5
1
"buyers" for MOX???

sawgrass - Please name the utilities that "buyers for MOX fuel." Uh, buyers? No utility will use MOX without being paid to do so, even if the experimental fuel is sold for a price far below production cost. Weapons-grade MOX has never been used on a commercial basis or even tested in a BWR so it's experimental. I'll be checking back, again, to get those utility names.

Little Lamb
47275
Points
Little Lamb 03/19/14 - 03:14 pm
1
2
Price

“No utility will use MOX without being paid to do so. . . .” said SCEagle Eye. Well, naturally they don't want to have their shareholders on he hook for paying DOE expenses. The utilities should get paid for using experimental fuel. And they should get paid for helping the DOE get rid of plutonium that is the target of terrorists.

SCEagle Eye
927
Points
SCEagle Eye 03/19/14 - 05:49 pm
4
0
noble MOX goal mutated

Litte Lamb has it right about use of MOX fuel and that the program was designed to get the plutonium in a safer form from a non-proliferation perspective. But some now claim, as a way to justify it, that it's an energy program ,which is not accurate and is false narrative attempting to rewrite the purpose of the program.

One thing that people may agree on is that Secretary of Energy Moniz should release the internal assessment that showed the life-cycle cost of MOX was $30 billion or more. (I still ask again and no politician will answer: where will the additional $25 billion to pull off the MOX program come from? Almost $1 billion.year for the next two decades and longer is needed. Show me the cash in a bankrupt government.)

sawgrass
2010
Points
sawgrass 03/19/14 - 06:16 pm
0
4
SCEagleEye

The 4 customers interested in the MOX fuel have asked not to be identified at this time. I'm sure you will jump all over this and run with it. MOX fuel is not an experimental process. Europe and Asia have used MOX fuel for 25 years.

SCEagle Eye
927
Points
SCEagle Eye 03/19/14 - 08:12 pm
4
0
prove WG MOX has been used

sawgrass please provide documentation about your claim that MOX made from weapons-grade plutonium has ever been used commercially in a LWR (beyond the failed test in 2005-2008 in Duke's Catawba reactor). Even AREVA has learned to be cautious about this erroneous claim.

One reason the design of the MOX plant is having so many problems is that AREVA is demonstrating to a gullible DOE/NNSA that they can't simply transfer French reactor-grade MOX technology to a U.S. factory that was to handle weapaons-grade plutonium (while having to meet different and stricter U.S. standards), right?

dwb619
97883
Points
dwb619 03/19/14 - 11:47 pm
1
0
766-H

Good one!
I liked that.

GiantsAllDay
9980
Points
GiantsAllDay 03/20/14 - 12:21 am
3
0
dwb619, Actually I bear

dwb619, Actually I bear Sawgrass no ill will--Unless people like Clint Wolfe are using him or her to do his bidding. Clint Wolfe is 1000X worse than people like Sawgrass. Clint is educated and he knows better yet he preys on people from the CSRA to make him and his cronies richer. I didn't sit in classes to earn my degrees just to prey on a local community for their hard earned money like Clint and the MOX religion do. Clint knows his message wont sell anywhere else--that is why he even still hangs around here. I wish the ACES (I wonder if ACES ever stated who is their nuclear expert on the newspaper staff?) would just tell Clint enough is enough. Nikki Haley stood up to the US govt and told them they messed with the wrong state. PUH-leeeze!! Strom has been dead for a long time (he is in heaven right now reunited with the slaves he had sex with and couldn't be bothered with what is going on down here) and Nikki and her minions are not going to accomplish a thing except to screw the SC residents out of a lot of their tax dollars with a doomed lawsuit. Look at those sheep behind her in the video(those three men, thinking "holy crap, I sold my soul for this?")--how uncomfortable they look--yet they will bow and obey anyway.

SCEagle Eye
927
Points
SCEagle Eye 03/22/14 - 01:05 am
1
0
loudmouths mean MOX sinks

OK, it is noted that sawgrass has not answered pending questions about MOX customers, "sale" of MOX to "buyers," the fact that weapons-grade MOX has never been used commercially, where the additional $25 billion for MOX going forward would come from & why nobody in DOE/NNSA/$haw AREVA MOX $ervices is being held accountable by Senators Graham and Scott and Rep. Wilson for the massive MOX boondoggle. As long as these questions are being dodged by the loudmouth politicians named above, MOX will sink further.

Back to Top

Top headlines

Search of alleged dealer's home found drugs, firearms

An Augusta man who alleged sheriff's officers have used illegal steroids, some for years, came to the attention of a Richmond County Sheriff's narcotics officer twice, according to an ...
Search Augusta jobs