Congressional advocates of the Savannah River Site's MOX facility said they prevented more than 1,000 MOX layoffs two weeks ago; however, there is still no news on when potential layoffs will be implemented.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., all attended the Savannah River National Laboratory's 10th anniversary of becoming a national lab on Wednesday.
After the ceremony, the three spoke to the media about MOX, and Graham said more than 1,000 layoffs were intended for the facility.
“They promised us that they would not layoff workers until we had a chance to fix the budget. The plan was, two weeks ago, to layoff over 1,000 workers,” he said. “They were basically going to go ahead and implement the budget cuts, and we convinced them not to lay the workforce off until the Congress had a chance to fix this.”
Graham and Scott said other members of the Senate have been advocating to keep funding flowing for construction of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility, or MOX project – a move that still remains in jeopardy since the federal government proposes placing the program in a cold stand-by while officials explore other options.
Wilson said he believes the administration could change its position on the MOX program.
“When the administration truly thinks back and looks at the facts, I think that we could have a shift in position,” he said. “I want to commend my colleagues. You can see that through a discussion on the issues on merit itself, the MOX facility should proceed.”
Graham added, “The dumbest thing coming out of Washington is stopping construction of a program that's over 60 percent complete with no alternative. If we break this agreement with Russia, I'm very fearful that Russia will break their end of the bargain.”
The Aiken Standard contacted Shaw AREVA MOX Services – the contractor in charge of construction – on the issue. The contractor directed comments to members of Congress. The Aiken Standard also contacted the National Nuclear Security Administration on the issue but the organization did not offer comments.
The MOX facility is part of a nonproliferation agreement with Russia to dispose of 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium, but the program has suffered delays and cost overruns.
The life cycle cost of the program has been debated recently, with DOE stating it could be as much as $30 billion and AREVA officials saying it's closer to $17 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.