The White House threatened on Wednesday to veto a United States House bill partly because it includes $345 million in funding for construction of the Savannah River Site's MOX facility – $149 million more than President Barack Obama's fiscal year 2015 budget request.
“The (Obama) Administration strongly objects to language that would require the Secretary of Energy to continue construction of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility,” officials wrote in a statement dated July 9.
The Office on Management and Budget released the statement and objected to MOX funding, and several other funding scopes, outlined in the House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act.
Language in the act states funding for the MOX program should be designated for construction only while the administration proposed funding to put the program in a cold stand-by.
“The Administration plans to move the facility into cold stand-by in FY-2015 as it continues to explore the potential for more cost effective alternatives while maintaining the U.S. Government's commitment to disposing of unneeded plutonium,” officials wrote.
While the Obama administration is pushing for a cold stand-by, committees in both the House and Senate have included language in recent bills to fund MOX through fiscal year 2015.
In June, the Senate Subcommittee on Energy and Water Appropriations added $200 million to the MOX program's proposed budget. The addition came shortly after the House's decision to approve MOX construction.
The MOX program is part of a nonproliferation agreement with Russia to dispose of 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium.
Naysayers of the program have said it is unsustainable, citing a Department of Energy study in April, pricing the entire program at more than $30 billion.
Advocates of the program, including AREVA – a partner of the MOX contractor – said the cost is closer to $17 billion.
Currently, the National Nuclear Security Administration is working with the contractor, Shaw AREVA MOX Services, on a plan to place the program in a cold stand-by at the start of the fiscal year 2015 beginning on Oct. 1.
Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard. He joined the paper in June 2013. He is originally from Vidalia, Ga., and a graduate of Georgia Southern University. Follow him on Twitter @DerrekAsberry.