A recent headline in the Aiken Standard shouted out good news for Aiken and for hundreds of employees at the Savannah River Site who are working on the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility – or MOX.

The 2014 Defense Authorization Act proposes to provide $360 million for MOX for 2014, which is $40 million more than was in the president’s budget request. 

Lest we get giddy over this very real success, we should realize that this level of funding is still far short of what is required to recoup time on scheduled implementation of this program. It does, however, buy time to fight another day. 

To be sure, another fight will be in the offing as opponents of MOX continue to rail against the project – citing overruns, life-cycle costs including operations and lack of customers for the fuel. 

They will convince the government to evaluate other options again – this has been done over and over again at great expense – but the agreements with the Russians specify eliminating plutonium 239 by turning it into MOX fuel. Other approaches to dispose of plutonium were rejected during negotiations with the Russians in favor of a method to eliminate plutonium 239, i.e., MOX. 

Proponents of other approaches have not shared with us how they will get the Russians to agree on what their life-cycle costs would be. Indeed, doing nothing has unlimited costs to the American taxpayer as annual costs for safeguarding, surveillance and accountability of plutonium 239 amount to hundreds of millions of dollars per year ad infinitum.

The “lack of customers” argument is a specious one because this project was never intended to make money from sale of fuel. It was only to provide some measure of cost recovery that will still happen when we get close enough to delivery dates for fuel assemblies.

It is unfortunate that the Aiken Standard chooses only to include opinions such as those attributed to Friends of the Earth in what are supposed to be news articles without balancing them with opinions from citizens who have a different opinion of the value of the project. 

Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but shouldn’t they all be on this page with my letter?

Clint Wolfe