Report: MOX facility cost inflated by billions again, delayed 3 years

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

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AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WRDW) -- A new Government Accountability Office report spells out bad news for the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility that's currently under construction at the Savannah River Site.

Upon completion, the facility will convert nuclear weapons-grade plutonium into fuel that can power commercial-grade reactors. At last check, the price tag of the project had ballooned from $1.4 billion to $4.9 billion.

Now, the Department of Energy estimates that the project will cost $7.7 billion. The completion date of October 2016 has also been pushed back to November 2019.

"The cost increase and schedule delay will not be known until DOE completes its review of the contractor’s proposal and DOE’s project oversight office completes an independent cost estimate. DOE currently plans to complete its review and approve a new project baseline by September 2013," the GAO report reads.

The report cites construction problems for the recent delay and cost increase.

There are also concerns about the lack of vendors interested in the reprocessed fuel for commercial reactors. According to another recent report by the GAO, only the Tennessee Valley Authority is seriously interested.

Several members of Congress have voiced strong opposition to continuing the project. An environmental group feels costs may be the death of the MOX project, too.

"Certainly, when people look for impacts they look at big projects, because that's where the money is," said Clint Wolfe, the Executive Director of the Citizens for Nuclear Technology Awareness in Aiken.

He says CNTA supports the MOX facility as a way to reduce the nuclear stockpile along with Russia. He says the local economic impact will also be tremendous.

"I think this is just imperative that we see this through," he said. "[Canceling MOX] would be a tragic, tragic mistake."

Tom Clements, who represents the environmental group Friends of the Earth, says after the overrun, MOX is likely "doomed to elimination." He says the situation has turned into a "boondoggle of massive proportions."

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