U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., said congressmen on both sides of the aisle are looking to hold the feet of President Barack Obama's administration to the fire to maintain funding for construction of the MOX facility at the Savannah River Site.
Scott spoke about the issue during a speech at the GOP headquarters in Aiken. The speech was part of Scott's campaign tour.
Scott joined the onslaught of criticism aimed at the federal government's decision to put the mixed oxide fuel fabrication, or MOX, facility in a “cold stand-by” while the National Nuclear Security Administration looks for cheaper ways to dispose of weapons-grade plutonium.
He added that he and U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., have talked in support of MOX.
“I had a conversation with Mary Landrieu, the chair of the Energy Committee, about making sure that we hold the feet of the administration to the fire,” Scott said. “This is not just something in our backyard that we're trying to protect. This is a national issue.”
The MOX project is part of an agreement with Russia to dispose of 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium.
The project has undergone delays and cost overruns. Most recently, the entire plutonium disposition project was estimated to have a life-cycle cost of up to $30 billion.
The state's Congressional delegation, Aiken County Legislative Delegation, Gov. Nikki Haley and Attorney General Alan Wilson have all been attempting to reverse the decision.
Haley's office filed suit against the Department of Energy on Tuesday, stating that DOE is illegally breaking a contract with the state. It added that current funding is meant for construction, not for freezing the project.
“We are not only being shortchanged as a community, but as a state,” Scott said. “We have put our confidence in this agreement and yet, the president has pulled back.”
In addition to MOX, Scott also spoke about his disapproval of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Scott said there's a lot of “red tape” surrounding Obamacare, including the legislation behind it and the effect it will have on small- business owners.
“I think the number is over 100,000 new regulations since this president has taken office, with a compliance cost of over $100 billion,” he added. “All of that red tape is passed on to the consumer, and it stops employers from being able to have predictability in the marketplace.”
Scott will continue his campaign tour next week with trips to York and Spartanburg counties on March 28 and Charleston County on March 30.
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.
DHEC requests info on MOX plutonium
The state's health and environmental department is requesting information on the status of the plutonium feed, previously intended for the MOX facility under construction at the Department of Energy's Savannah River Site.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control – or SCDHEC – sent a letter dated March 20 to DOE-SR representative Dave Moody and Doug Dearolph from the National Nuclear Security Administration. The letter came in the aftermath of a decision by the federal government to put the mixed oxide fuel fabrication facility, or MOX project, in a cold stand-by.
SCDHEC Director Catherine Templeton is requesting an update on the status of the plutonium feed. Specifically, she wants to know what DOE will do with it.
“DOE should clarify the waste status of the plutonium and plutonium mixtures at Savannah River Site and describe how the material will be handled going forward, Templeton wrote.
Templeton said that if the project is not moving forward, the only feasible options for the material “appear to be either disposal or accumulation before disposal.”
Department of Energy officials at SRS directed the Aiken Standard to National Nuclear Security Administration public affairs on the issue.
“We are aware of the letter and will review the request,” said Keri Fulton from the public affairs office.
Concerns on the plutonium have surfaced in recent weeks since the news of the cold stand-by. South Carolina politicians and other officials have all pushed for answers on what will happen to the shipments of plutonium on Site if the government pulls out of the MOX project.
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.