NRC holds meeting about MOX, addresses faulty piping

MOX project

The project that'll create thousands of jobs is still on schedule for a 2016 completion. (WRDW-TV / July 24, 2012)

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Tuesday, July 24, 2012

NEW ELLENTON, S.C. -- This August will mark the five-year anniversary of construction of a massive project at Savannah River Site. After it's built, the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility will convert nuclear weapons-grade plutonium into fuel that can power commercial-grade reactors.

On Tuesday afternoon, MOX Services President and Chief Operating Officer Kelly Trice gave Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspectors and members of the public an update.

"Things are actually going very well. We just closed out another quarter with zero violations. The project is moving on track," he told News 12.

He says the project that'll create thousands of jobs is still on schedule for a 2016 completion, but folks like nuclear watchdog Tom Clements aren't convinced.

"Congress is definitely waking up to the overall cost of the program and how much is yet to be spent and all the unanswered problems that are facing the program," Clements said.

A Government Accountability Office report from 2010 says the $1.4 billion tax payer project is now estimated to be just shy of $5 billion.

"And I calculate there's about $17.5 billion left to be spent on the overall plutonium disposition and MOX program, but unfortunately, the Department of Energy will not release the figure on that," Clements said.

Clements is also concerned that no private companies will buy the reprocessed fuel called MOX. So far, the Tennessee Valley Authority is the only company seriously interested, according to the GAO report.

"We have other utilities that are interested as well, and we're in the process of working that now," Trice said.

Meanwhile, the United State House of Representatives recently cut about $17 million from MOX. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry from Nebraska wrote, "The MOX fuel program has cost billions in taxpayer dollars with little practical effect."

Clements with the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability also now questions whether the TVA is really on board with buying MOX fuel.

The most recent bump is faulty piping the builder purchased from Spain. News 12 was told Tuesday that it should not be a problem. Most -- if not all -- of that faulty pipe was not installed.

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