South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Director Catherine Templeton wrote a letter to U.S. Energy Department site manager David Moody and Doug Dearolph, the National Nuclear Security Administration’s site manager. In the letter, Templeton requested the status of plutonium material at the South Carolina site that was to be processed by the MOX plant, which is being shut down before completion.
“Given this new information, DOE should clarify the waste status of the plutonium and plutonium mixtures at Savannah River Site and describe how the material will be handled going forward,” Templeton wrote.
The multibillion-dollar MOX facility was intended to convert 34 metric tons of American weapons-grade plutonium to commercial nuclear fuel to help fulfill an international nonproliferation agreement with Russia.
The NNSA, which manages the MOX project, began shutting down construction earlier this month after fiscal 2015 federal budget proposals called for placing MOX on standby while assessing more cost-effective methods.
Without MOX to convert the plutonium, Templeton wrote “the technologically feasible options for the material scheduled to be processed at MOX appear to be either disposal or accumulation before disposal.”
According to South Carolina regulations, the plutonium intended for MOX could be reclassified as “mixed-waste” requiring its disposal. The letter requests more information on the waste so DHEC can determine a classification for it.
Templeton said Friday in a statement: “If the material contains hazardous waste, the Department of Energy must dispose of it properly within one year, or keep MOX open to avoid the reclassification.”