Members of the South Carolina congressional delegation said the Department of Energy is already planning to stop work at the MOX facility at the Savannah River Site.
In a March 7 letter to S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C.; and U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., reported information about the mixed oxide fuel fabrication facility in Aiken County, known as MOX.
“It is our understanding that the Department of Energy is already preparing to stop work currently happening at SRS,” the congressmen wrote in the letter. The Aiken Standard attempted to contact DOE and congressional members to gather more information, but phone calls and emails were not returned by press time.
The congressmen also used the letter to ask Haley to take legal action regarding the MOX facility.
“We ask that you work with the South Carolina attorney general to explore any legal avenues the state may have to address this injustice,” the congressmen wrote in the letter.
The letter stems from President Barack Obama's fiscal year 2015 budget proposal, which was released March 4.
The proposal includes placing the MOX facility in a “cold stand-by” while the National Nuclear Security Administration searches for cheaper options to dispose of the weapons-grade plutonium that is set for disposal at SRS.
“This course of action will likely lead to the federal government to violate the terms of a U.S.-Russia Plutonium Disposition Management Agreement and will almost certainly lead to a failure to meet the conditions set forth in 50 USC 2566,” the letter added.
After reading the letter, the Aiken Standard reached out to Haley's office about the issue.
Haley is speaking with S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson about the issue, said Doug Mayer, Haley's spokesperson.
“We are currently working with the attorney general's office and exploring any and all legal options in regard to this issue,” Mayer said. “The governor has been actively engaged with this situation from the start and is committed to finding a solution – whether inside of a courtroom or not.”
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 at least 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium.
The facility is about 61 percent complete, but the project has undergone years of cost overruns and delays.
The Government Accountability Office reported in June that the plant is $3 billion over budget, costing an estimated $7.7 billion.
Most recently, DOE revealed the results of a study last month that concluded the project could have a life-cycle cost of up to $30 billion.
Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard. He joined the paper in June.