A consultant was recently brought in to the Savannah River Site to examine options for possibly terminating the MOX contract held by Shaw AREVA MOX Services, which is the contractor currently in charge of constructing the facility.
According to an article from the Weapons Complex Monitor – a magazine that provides intelligence and inside information on cleanup and waste management within Department of Energy sites – the National Nuclear Security Administration, or NNSA, sent a consultant to the Site earlier this week.
The publication stated it believes the consultant is David Darugh, a retired DOE official. When asked about it, Darugh refused to comment.
Several parties were contacted for more information on the issue. Both SRS and MOX Services officials directed the Aiken Standard to the NNSA Public Affairs office. Public Affairs Deputy Director Keri Fulton stated NNSA has “no comment on these items.”
The Aiken Standard also attempted to contact DOE public affairs on the issue but did not hear back from the office before press time.
In addition to the consultant, the Government Accountability Office – or GAO – looked at the MOX facility this month and stated in a report that NNSA has not sufficiently analyzed the root causes of cost increases in the entire plutonium disposition program.
“NNSA's most recent estimates for the plutonium disposition program did not fully reflect all the characteristics of reliable cost estimates and schedule estimates as established by best practices for cost-and-schedule-estimating, placing the program at risk of further cost increases,” the office wrote in the report.
GAO ended the report by recommending that the energy department conduct a root cause analysis of the program's cost increases and ensure that future estimates of the program's life-cycle cost meet all the best practices for reliable estimates.
U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., got wind of the ongoing issues and released a statement on Thursday afternoon.
“In the coming weeks, I plan to launch a campaign against any attack by the Administration to help secure the future of this project,” Wilson said. “Any decision by the Administration to stall or terminate MOX is reckless and strictly political.”
The MOX facility is designed to turn weapons-grade plutonium into nuclear reactor fuel. Its work is part of a nonproliferation effort between the United States and Russia to dispose of weapons-grade plutonium.
The project has undergone cost overruns and delays. The GAO reported in June that the plant is $3 billion over budget, costing an estimated $7.7 billion.
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.