Tuesday, Mar. 4, 2014
AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- It's potentially bad news for Savannah River Site. On Tuesday, President Barack Obama released his budget. The budget calls for placing the Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility at SRS on "cold stand-by."
Billions of dollars have gone into the MOX project. The goal of the project is to turn weapon-grade plutonium into safer nuclear fuel for commercial reactors. The first of its kind facility in the United States was born out of a 2000 agreement with Russia. The agreement requires both United States and Russia to dispose of 68 metric tons of plutonium collectively, which is sufficient for approximately 17,000 nuclear weapons.
"[The National Nuclear Security Administration] is evaluating alternative plutonium disposition technologies to MOX that will achieve a safe and secure solution more quickly and cost effectively," the Department of Energy's proposed budget reads.
"You're looking at somewhere between 4,000 to 6,000 jobs being lost if that MOX program were to disappear," says Dr. Clint Wolfe with the Citizens for Nuclear Technology Awareness in Aiken, since studies have shown that every SRS job creates about 2.5 more jobs in the surrounding community.
Cost overruns and construction delays have been pointed out by recent government report. A Government Accountability Office report released in February urges DOE to analyze the root causes of cost increases and develop better cost estimates.
Right now, construction is expected to cost about $7.7 billion. There was a $3 billion cost increase in 2012 alone. Last spring, the NNSA estimated that the life-cycle cost of the project could be $24 billion.
Despite the suspension of MOX, the budget says the Obama Administration remains committed to the U.S.-Russia Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement.