The contractor for the Savannah River Site’s Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility, or MOX, requested an additional 10 years to complete construction of the facility to stay in good, legal standing during future construction of the facility.

In a May 12 letter recently obtained by SRS Watch, Shaw AREVA MOX Services asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or NRC, to extend the construction authorization expiration date from March 30, 2015, to March 30, 2025.

The contractor cited several reasons for its request including: the fact that MOX is the first facility of its kind to be licensed in the United States; appropriations have been less than the projected funding profile for several years; a shortage of, and increased regional demand for, qualified construction workers; and a two-year delay between issuance of the NRC Construction Authorization and the start of nuclear construction.

“Since the completion of construction is highly dependent upon annual congressional funding, the requested extension date bounds the actual time MOX Services will require to complete construction of the (Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility),” the contractor wrote.

MOX Services added that though significant progress has been made, additional time is required for the construction of an emergency generator building, a reagents processing building, the installation of ventilation systems and various other structures.

In an email interview with the Aiken Standard, a MOX Services spokesperson said the request is a routine issue that falls under procedures the NRC has developed for licensees.

“The authorization for construction is like having a driver’s license that allows you to drive in a state for 10 years, but doesn’t obligate you to or predict how long you will stay in that state,” the contractor wrote. “The letter to the NRC simply allows further construction of the MOX facility under the current NRC license.”

The MOX project employs about 1,400 workers and is part of a nonproliferation agreement with Russia to dispose of 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium. The project is 63 percent complete.

The Aiken Standard also attempted to contact the NRC on the issue but did not receive comments before press time.

Derrek Asberry is the SRS beat reporter for the Aiken Standard.