Originally created 05/02/06

MOX plant work to add jobs



AIKEN - Construction of a new MOX facility at Savannah River Site will bring about 500 new jobs to the area by the end of the year, officials said Monday.

About 200 employees of the MOX contractor, Duke Cogema Stone and Webster, are expected to move from their current offices in Charlotte, N.C., by August to oversee construction of the facility, according to a statement from U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham.

DCS also plans to hire up to 320 subcontractors by the end of the year to excavate the MOX, or mixed-oxide, facility site, pour the concrete foundation and install equipment, the statement said.

During the peak year of construction, the project will employ about 1,000 people, said Bryan Wilkes, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration.

DCS has a contract with the National Nuclear Security Administration, which has a nonproliferation agreement with Russia to eliminate weapons-grade plutonium.

However, "This isn't just about jobs," Mr. Wilkes said.

The project also is vital to national security, he said.

Six years ago, the United States and Russia agreed to dispose of 68 metric tons, or 34 metric tons each, of surplus weapons-grade plutonium by converting it to MOX fuel to use in existing commercial nuclear reactors.

Aiken County Councilman Chuck Smith was guardedly optimistic about the announcement because the timetable to complete the project has been delayed several times.

"We've been down this path before with commitments. We want to see them fulfilled," he said.

In February, officials announced that the MOX plant, which was supposed to start converting the plutonium by the end of 2009, was given a three-year extension.

Mr. Smith also said a lawsuit that Aiken County filed last fall against the Energy Department in response to the delays is still in place.

Mr. Wilkes said the nuclear agency has $570 million in hand to construct the facility.

Reach Betsy Gilliland at (803) 648-1395, ext. 113, or betsy.gilliland@augustachronicle.com.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham announced the agreement.

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About 200 employees of Duke Cogema Stone and Webster are expected to move to SRS from Charlotte, N.C., by August to oversee construction of the MOX facility.



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