What a hazardous waste

Excuses for delaying SRS MOX facility are weak and dangerous

  • Follow Editorials

The technology is complicated, but its mission is very simple.

The Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site is designed to dispose of plutonium by converting it into fuel for nuclear power plants. It would take something most would consider bad (weapons-grade material) and turn it into something most would consider good (a source of emission-free electricity).

That is, if it ever gets built.

President Obama’s fiscal 2015 budget abandons the 600,000-square-foot project – which is already 60 percent complete – by placing it on “cold standby.”

What a waste. And, frankly, a hazard.

Kiss the $3.9 billion that already has been spent goodbye. Kiss the 1,800 skilled-construction jobs goodbye. Kiss the potential fuel-supply deal with the Tennessee Valley Authority’s power plants goodbye. And, most importantly, you can give a goodbye kiss to the removal of 34 metric tons of plutonium from the U.S. and former Soviet weapons arsenals.

Obama’s Department of Energy reportedly is studying cheaper options and new technologies to eliminate plutonium. But that looks more like a smokescreen. MOX is a proven technology, having been around for more than 40 years in Europe and tested in more than 30 reactors worldwide. After years of commitment and billions in investment, the DOE now is going to decide to pursue other options?

It appears Obama is throwing a bone to the left’s radical environmentalist wing, which is opposed to anything nuclear. What better way to do that than mothball a facility in a conservative state? Two for the price of one!

Critics of the project continue to cite an analysis that puts its “life-cycle cost” at a bloated $30 billion. If such a study exists, we’d like to see it, because there have been no other life-cycle cost discussions on DOE projects in other states. If the figure is bunk, then the DOE should step up and say so in the interest of fairness and transparency.

During this cold standby, the facility and equipment are left to sit but are protected from the environment. The community can only hope that the DOE comes to its senses after completing its analysis of, ahem, “MOX alternatives” in 12 to 18 months.

Shuttering the MOX facility, and the defunding of the Yucca Mountain waste site by Obama five years ago, means hazardous nuclear material that could have been converted to fuel will be stored at SRS even longer. There’s no question the material will be safe and secure, but it’s unsettling to keep it at SRS instead of a thoroughly researched, remote, underground repository in the Nevada desert.

Again, politics at play.

And there are larger issues here than just the future of SRS. An elimination of the MOX project could jeopardize the U.S.-Russia Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement of 2011, which aims to take the equivalent of 17,000 nuclear weapons off the market.

Russia operates fast reactors that either can consume plutonium (during peacetime) or create it (as it did during the Cold War). Allowing Russia an “out” of the disposition agreement gives it no incentive to let go of any weaponized plutonium.

Now turn to today’s international headlines about Russia and its dangerous saber-rattling. Then ask yourself: Would you want that country to have even one more microliter of weaponized plutonium?

If budget cuts need to be made – and they most certainly do – there are assuredly better places to start than the MOX project.

Comments (9) 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.
Riverman1
83421
Points
Riverman1 03/14/14 - 04:54 am
8
1
Obama Logic

Comparing Yucca Mt. to SRS we see that Yucca has the billion dollars injected into their local economy to build storage facilities and zero nuclear wastes. SRS has the wastes and zero dollars to build waste storage facilities.

david jennings
590
Points
david jennings 03/14/14 - 06:49 am
7
1
I am confident

Now I truly believe Obama' statement that he will fundamentally change America.

ymnbde
9670
Points
ymnbde 03/14/14 - 07:05 am
7
1
if Georgia and South Carolina choose Republican governors

punish them
don't deepen their harbors
even if it means harming everyone in Georgia
and the entire country
don't convert dangerous plutonium into something useful
even if it means harming everyone in South Carolina
and the entire country
what a vindictive little man

SCEagle Eye
910
Points
SCEagle Eye 03/14/14 - 07:44 am
7
3
show me the money

The Augusta Chronicle has weighed in on the side of the big spenders. Where is the money to pay for this project? Show us where the additional $25 billion will come from. Why no call for holding anyone at DOE, NNSA or Shaw AREVA MOX Services accountable for the cost of the MOX plant going from under $1 billion to possibly $10 billion? Where are the reactors to use MOX? TVA now has little interest. Weapons-grade plutonium has NEVER been used commercially before (and will need to undergo lengthy testing) and the design of the factory based on a French factory using reactor-grade plutonium has run into design problems.

As far as the Russia agreement, it can be changed by agreement of the parties and the US and Russia have met about that. But, in reality, the value of that agreement has diminished over time as Russia will do what it wants, including using a plutonium breeder reactor which can actually make more weapons-grade plutonium. We are enabling the Russia to get more plutonium! The only ones who seem to be flapping about the MOX decision are those who aim to make money off of it. Too bad that MOX madne$$ has caused a few to think tax payers can be played as chumps to keep pouring our money down the MOX rat hole. Fiscal conservatives may well have the last say on the fate of MOX debacle.

jimmymac
38954
Points
jimmymac 03/14/14 - 08:31 am
0
0
MOX
Unpublished

Riverman is right in his assessment. Obama is punishing SC for not being a Dem supporter and will do anything he can to hurt their economy. He fought the location of the Boeing plant with his hand picked NLRB and now is backing away from a promise on MOX. SC has been used as a dumping ground for nuclear waste and Obama has ignored previous agreements. I can't wait for November to get here and we can take away control of the senate from Nevada Harry Reed. Billions spent in Nevada for Yucca Mountain and nothing going there and you talk about waste!

Rhetor
1007
Points
Rhetor 03/14/14 - 09:09 am
6
2
so typical

This is so typical of conservative thought. You want to make massive cuts in "government." I've heard leading conservatives say that they want to cut government as much as 40%. Republicans in Congress refuse to raise taxes or raise borrowing limits to finance existing programs. They never, ever, ever specify what cuts they want. Then, if you start to make actual, real cuts, they howl. No, don't cut MOX. Don't cut national parks. How dare anyone cut Social Security or Medicare. Don't cut national defense. Don't cut veterans' benefits. The problem is that conservatives don't have any actual, specific cuts that they want to make. A few harmful cuts to programs that help the poor won't balance the federal budget. If you want to make massive cuts, which all of your Tea Party friends agree they want, you're going to have to suffer real pain. Do conservatives hope that all of the pain will go to someone else? Not possible. Massive cuts in government are going to hurt, and they will hurt badly. This is what you asked for. This is what you demonstrated for. You're getting a small taste of what you asked for. So, you want to cut government? This is what it feels like. Have fun, guys. As Ann Landers used to say, wake up and smell the coffee.

Bizkit
31230
Points
Bizkit 03/14/14 - 09:27 am
3
0
They did the same with fuel

They did the same with fuel cell technology and quit funding it and pursuing it though its super close to fruition. But I do have an issue with the protectionism of this article-everywhere there is needed cuts and everywhere there are similar circumstances and communities concerned about a loss. So there lies the rub.

willie7
955
Points
willie7 03/14/14 - 09:36 am
0
0
A-men Rhetor!!! You got it
Unpublished

A-men Rhetor!!!
You got it right
Cut those lazy welfare recipients---but not our wasteful contracts.

afadel
490
Points
afadel 03/14/14 - 11:29 am
2
3
Fiscal Conservatives Except When Its Their Own Pockets

Oh, yea. Now Lindsey Graham cares about international agreements. There are less costly, proven ways of making the plutonium waste unusable for nuclear bombs. And while we're discussing it, when are we going to get rid of our remaining nuclear bombs? Would not that make the world safer, Senator Graham?

t3bledsoe
14290
Points
t3bledsoe 03/14/14 - 12:47 pm
3
1
Editorial

"If budget cuts need to be made – and they most certainly do – there are assuredly better places to start than the MOX project."

This editorial is printed "ONLY FOR THE PURPOSE" of convincing the local public that jobs are needed even if it means more government waste!! You know, our country has more PRESSING problems with a crumballing infrastructure than the disposing of a FICTICIOUS agreement than THE LIEING Russians!! I would have thought that the conservative AUGUSTA CHRONICLE would view it this way, BUT they have to put local jobs ahead of cutting the over-blotted national debt!!!!

edcushman
7930
Points
edcushman 03/14/14 - 02:23 pm
3
2
"And while we're discussing
Unpublished

"And while we're discussing it, when are we going to get rid of our remaining nuclear bombs? Would not that make the world safer, Senator Graham?
"afadel, the only thing that stops a bad guy with a nuclear bomb is a good guy with one.

SCEagle Eye
910
Points
SCEagle Eye 03/15/14 - 08:44 am
3
0
cost of failed project? only public estimate by NGO

The Augusta Chronicle still hasn't said where the additional $25 billion for the failed MOX project would come from. While a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the secret cost assessment that was prepared bby a public interest group in April 2013 that $22 billion was left to be spent (on top of the $5 billion already sunk into the MOX quagmire) and this remains the only public assessment. It's just a quick attempt to come up with a ball park figure and here it is: http://tinyurl.com/nwmkb8c. It's a sad commentary that DOE, NN$A and $haw AREVA MOX $ervices have refused to prepare a life-cycle cost estimate. Why haven't $enator Lind$ey Graham and Rep. Joe Wil$on demanded a cost estimate or not held anyone accountable for not bothering to estimate how much this project would cost??? This reveals a lot about the gross mismanagement of this failed project and the negligent lack of congressional oversight.

Back to Top

Search Augusta jobs