UPDATE | Federal budget calling for MOX facility to close

Published: Feb. 12, 2018 at 6:00 PM EST
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Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018

(News 12 at 5:30)

SAVANNAH RIVER SITE (WRDW/WAGT) – The MOX facility project is behind schedule and over-budget.

Workers tell News 12 until Congress gives the thumbs up or down, their lives are on hold.

It’s happened many times before, a federal budget calling for the MOX facility at SRS to halt construction and close.

Josh Godbee remembers it.

“About this time every year, the budget comes out. You hear that you get a set amount of funding. You start wondering, ‘well, you can’t do the project with that amount of money so that means positions are gonna start disappearing.’”

He worked at MOX for many years until this fall when he says he had enough of the project’s instability.

“I was sick of showing up every single day, the first thing you talk about is where the project is going. ‘Has anyone heard anything new?’ ‘Are we gonna have a job tomorrow?’ ‘Are we gonna have a job later this afternoon?’”

He said those questions rarely came with answers, which is why he left. But for the employees still working there, he says the impact of its closure could be big.

“You have to wait two or three months wondering ‘do I have a job? Do I have a job?’ It ends up being stressful for 6-8 months.”

Those two to three months being the time it takes for Congress to approve the budget and decide whether or not to actually stop construction. If they do, he says the closure has a ripple effect too.

"It's not just hurting the employees themselves, it's hurting all of Aiken, all of Augusta, all of North Augusta not only is it the 1500-2000 employees at MOX, you have the restaurants they go to, the gas station the employees stop at.”

In 2016, the DOE said the project was about 61 percent complete, but wasn’t set to be completed by 2040, and wouldn’t be operational until 2048. But closing it isn’t just like flipping a switch, in fact, it’ll take hundreds of millions of dollars to close it safely. Congress must make a final decision on the budget by mid-April.

Monday, Feb. 12, 2018

SAVANNAH RIVER SITE (WRDW/WAGT) -- President Donald Trump has released his 2019 budget request, in which calls for the closing of the MOX project at SRS.

Closing the project would cost $220 million but the Department of Energy says it would save between $10-12 billion to find a different way to get rid of plutonium.

In a statement released to News 12 from a National Nuclear Security Administration spokesperson, the administration wants to terminate the MOX project "because it is simply unaffordable."

“The Budget Request includes $220M to continue the orderly and safe closure of the Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility and $59M to pursue the proven dilute and dispose technology."

The NNSA says they have a proven method called 'dilute and dispose' that is less expensive, has far lower risks, and can be implemented decades sooner than the MOX approach.

Right now, the MOX project is still ongoing and was supposed to help turn spent nuclear fuel into commercial fuel for nuclear energy when it was done.

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