S.C. sues Department of Energy over MOX cold stand-by

  • Posted: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 12:01 a.m.
    UPDATED: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 12:03 a.m.
Staff photo by Derrek Asberry
Gov. Nikki Haley stands with the Aiken Delegation on Tuesday while she explains her frustrations with the Department of Energy about the MOX cold stand-by. She announced that South Carolina is suing the DOE during a press conference at the Statehouse in Columbia.
Staff photo by Derrek Asberry Gov. Nikki Haley stands with the Aiken Delegation on Tuesday while she explains her frustrations with the Department of Energy about the MOX cold stand-by. She announced that South Carolina is suing the DOE during a press conference at the Statehouse in Columbia.

COLUMBIA — Gov. Nikki Haley and staff members said the state of South Carolina is filing suit in support of the Savannah River Site's MOX facility, because President Barack Obama's cold stand-by initiative violates agreements between the state and the federal government.

Haley announced the state is suing the Department of Energy during a press conference on Tuesday afternoon in the Statehouse in Columbia. She was joined at the podium by U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., Attorney General Alan Wilson and most members of the Aiken delegation.

The suit is part of an effort to maintain construction and completion of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility, or MOX. Placing the facility in cold stand-by basically means the National Nuclear Security Administration will not move forward with work on the facility site while officials examine other options.

“It's a facility that (Washington) D.C. started, and with plutonium sitting there ... and now you're going to stop MOX?” Haley questioned. “They're hurting the people of South Carolina, and we're not going to sit back and take it.”

Haley and Wilson are citing the National Defense Authorization Act as part of their case.

The act includes a section titled SRS Plutonium Disposition Provisions, which states that if DOE decides not to proceed with MOX, then it must prepare a plan that identifies a disposition path out of South Carolina for all defense plutonium and defense plutonium materials.

“DOE decided not to proceed with the immobilization portion of the hybrid strategy, leaving the construction and operation of the MOX facility as the only strategy to dispose of surplus plutonium in the United States,” South Carolina officials wrote in the suit.

Officials added that the funds put in place for MOX were only designated for construction of the facility; not to put the facility in a cold stand-by.

“The use of appropriated funds in this manner is unauthorized and violates the Constitution and federal law,” officials wrote in the suit.

Attorney General Wilson added, “Our complaint asserts that the administration's misuse of federal funds violates the fundamental tenet of separation of powers and it explicitly violates a federal statute prohibiting executive agencies from expending funds for purposes unauthorized by Congress.”

S.C. Rep. Roland Smith, R-District 84, also addressed the media, stating that there's no exit plan in place for the MOX facility. This makes it even more ridiculous to abandon the mission, Smith said.

“We lose the jobs and the MOX plant, but we also retain the waste because there's no exit plan,” he added.

The MOX project is part of a nonproliferation agreement between the U.S. and Russia to each dispose of 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium.

The Department of Energy is looking to freeze construction of the facility due to projected cost overruns. The most recent cost projection came from a DOE study that stated the life-cycle cost of the facility could be as high as $30 billion.

South Carolina will now wait for a response from DOE on the complaint.

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.

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