U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., continued his support of the Savannah River Site's MOX facility on Monday in a letter signed by more than 20 congressman, including the entire South Carolina House delegation and members of the Georgia House.
In a letter to Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, Wilson said the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility is mandated by the U.S.-Russia Plutonium Disposition Agreement and authorized by Congress to dispose of the weapons-grade plutonium.
“Placing this program into cold-standby will prevent the United States from honoring its part of the aforementioned agreement,” he wrote. “At a time when the administration is attempting to negotiate a nuclear nonproliferation agreement with Iran, defaulting on our own agreement sends a conflicting message to the international community.”
Wilson said the funds granted to the program in the fiscal year 2014 budget explicitly provided for construction of MOX.
“The funds were not authorized or appropriated for cold-standby, and we request they be used only for construction as Congress intended,” Wilson wrote. “We are concerned that the intent of Congress is being ignored and, as a result, we may see a usurpation of Congress' power of the purse.”
One of Wilson's final points was the lack of public information on the DOE study that priced the life-cycle cost of the program at $30 billion. He wrote that the signees of the letter have never seen the study and requested that the information be made available.
“We request that report and its justifications to be released in its entirety. Moreover, we request a study to analyze the cost associated with placing MOX into cold-standby, which is estimated to be between $700 and $900 million,” he added.
Other signees of Wilson's letter include: U.S. Reps. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., Ted Yoho, R-Fla., Doc Hastings, R-Wash., and Robert Hurt, R-Va.
Wilson's letter comes nearly a month after President Barack Obama's fiscal year 2015 budget proposal led to the MOX facility being placed into a cold stand-by while officials search for less costly options.
The decision has been met by several letters and statements to DOE from local, state and congressional advocates, including a lawsuit against the Energy Department issued by the state and signed by S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley.
Cost overruns and delays of the project have escalated over the years with DOE's $30 billion number being the highest estimate to date.
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.
U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Tim Scott, R-S.C., sent a letter to President Barack Obama on Monday stating that the administration cannot just abandon the MOX facility under construction at the Savannah River Site.
“The Obama Administration cannot just abandon the Mixed Oxide Fuel program at the Savannah River Site, especially with no viable alternative. Their actions could break a critical nuclear arms control agreement between the United States and Russia, while leaving some 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium in South Carolina and Texas for an indefinite period of time,” the two wrote in the letter.
Graham and Scott said Obama's decision to place the MOX facility in a cold stand-by violates agreements between the federal government and the state of South Carolina.
“The Administration's actions are also breaking a promise to South Carolina and our residents, who agreed to host the MOX facility which stated the nuclear material would be processed into usable fuel for commercial power reactors – not sit in South Carolina indefinitely,” they added.
The two ended the letter by asking Obama to reconsider the decision and work with Congress to find a fiscally responsible path to complete the project.
The MOX facility is designed to turn weapons-grade plutonium into nuclear fuel. It is part of a nonproliferation agreement to dispose of 34 metric tons of the plutonium.
The project has undergone cost overruns over the years including a recent estimation by the Department of Energy that stated the life cycle cost of the plutonium disposition project could be as much as $30 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.
Graham, Scott advocate MOX in letter to Obama