MOX employees warned of potential layoffs

Shaw AREVA MOX Services employees have reportedly been warned that layoffs may be coming down the line if the proposed federal budget does not include adequate funding for the mixed-oxide fuel fabrication facility.

The budget request to Congress from President Barack Obama’s administration seeks $503 million for programs with most of it earmarked for the MOX plant, but that’s approximately $200 million less than what was provided in last year’s continuing resolution. Because of that, Shaw AREVA MOX Services is spending less money.

The MOX plant, which is under construction at the Savannah River Site, turns weapons-grade plutonium into nuclear reactor fuel. Its work is part of a nonproliferation effort between the United States and Russia to dispose of at least 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium.

Shaw AREVA MOX Services employs approximately 2,100 people, and some are expected to receive Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act notices by the end of this week.

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act requires most employers with 100 or more employees to provide notification 60 calendar days in advance of plant closings and mass layoffs, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

“We are working with (the National Nuclear Security Administration) to minimize the impact,” said Bryan Wilkes, spokesman for MOX Services.

The plant is about 60 percent complete, but the project has undergone years of cost overruns and delays. The Government Accountability Office reports the plant is $3 billion over budget, now costing an estimated $7.7 billion.

The Obama administration has said that high costs “may make the project unaffordable” and that it would consider other possible ways to honor the agreement with Russia and dispose of plutonium.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Haley Hughes is the news editor for the Aiken Standard. She joined the newspaper in 2007 and covered Aiken County government until her promotion in 2013. Hughes, a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, is from Knoxville, Tenn.

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