The budget proposal that President Obama sent to Congress on Feb. 9 confirmed the administration’s plans to terminate, nearly nine years after construction began, the multibillion-dollar Mixed-Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility project at the Savannah River site in South Carolina. The much- delayed, over-budget project would convert 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium into fuel for nuclear reactors, as mandated by an agreement between the U.S. and Russia.
Also on Feb. 9, South Carolina filed suit against the Dept. of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration, seeking to hold the federal government to its commitment of paying the state up to $100 million annually. The payment became applicable on Jan. 1 due to the fact that no MOX had been produced under the terms of an agreement between DOE and South Carolina. However, the terms of that agreement note that the penalties are “subject to the availability of appropriations.”
DOE last year suggested, instead, diluting and storing the radioactive material at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) doesn’t see as credible the dilution-and-disposal plan involving WIPP. He observed, “There is no viable alternative to MOX. If they have a better idea … then they should bring it forward. Right now, they have nothing.”