The Obama administration opposed House passage of the Energy and Water appropriations bill that funds the U.S. Department of Energy, saying it prevents cheaper alternatives for plutonium disposition. The president, in his budget request, proposed $196 million to shutter the MOX facility, but backers of the multibillion-dollar project recommended more money and specified the funds had to be used for construction.
“The Administration strongly objects to language that would require the Secretary of Energy to continue construction of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility,” according to a statement from the White House Office of Management and Budget.
The president reiterated his plans to place the MOX facility on standby in fiscal year 2015 while analyzing alternatives.
The energy and water bill was discussed on the House floor Wednesday, and a vote is expected Thursday. The bill also funds programs under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The MOX facility, which employs about 1,800 workers and is 60 percent complete, is being built to convert 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium into commercial reactor fuel. About $4 billion has been spent on construction so far, and the life-cycle costs were estimated at $30 billion.
In June, House appropriators recommended $345 million for MOX and the Senate $400 million. Both specified the money had to be used for construction.
South Carolina politicians, Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. Joe Wilson, have said bipartisan support for MOX kept them optimistic about the future of the project.