The Savannah River Site's Waste Solidification Building – a building currently being constructed to process materials generated from the MOX facility – will have to wait at least five years before it can be used.

The information came from a Dec. 27 report from the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. According to the report, the facility will be placed on at least a five-year “lay-up.” The National Nuclear Security Administration advised Site contractor Savannah River Nuclear Solutions to wait a minimum of five years before using the building to process materials.

“In light of the anticipated start-up date, NNSA issued direction to SRNS that the WSB will be placed in lay-up for a period of not less than five years following acceptance and startup testing of components and systems,” the report stated. “The contractor is to develop the safety basis documents, submit them to NNSA, and maintain their configuration, but NNSA will not formally approve them during this lay-up period.”

When asked for more information, SRNS directed the Aiken Standard to Keri Fulton from the security administration. Fulton reiterated information from the report stating that “NNSA has sufficient information to determine that the first receipt of liquids from the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility will be a minimum of five years after completion of the WSB project.”

She added, “The overriding goal for the Department's Waste Solidification Building project at its Savannah River Site is to deliver a facility that can be approved for radiological operations for plutonium disposition at an appropriate future date, and to preserve and maintain the facility and equipment delivered by the project until the capability is required.”

Tom Clements, a nuclear adviser to the Sierra Club, spoke on the club's disapproval of the information.

“While NNSA will predictably claim that they are shuttering the plutonium waste facility to save money it is actually being done for the opposite reason – that the overall MOX program is simply not financially sustainable,” said Clements.

Workers began constructing the Waste Solidification Buiilding in 2009 with a $345 million budget, with an estimated completion date in 2013. Construction of the building is 95 percent complete, with no new completion date set.

The Aiken Standard attempted to contact the Safety Board for comment, but was unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, the MOX facility is incomplete as well, with cost overruns and a completion date that now has been pushed to 2016.

Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard. He joined the paper in June. He is originally from Vidalia, Ga., and a graduate of Georgia Southern University. Follow him on Twitter @ DerrekAsberry.