Lindsey Graham, Greenville, MOX

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks with reporters on Monday in Greenville. Graham delivered a speech at the Poinsett Club that afternoon.

GREENVILLE — With the death of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site comes a new priority for U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham: getting weapons-grade plutonium out of South Carolina, and quickly.

"I've got one goal," Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said Monday before delivering a lunchtime speech. "I want the 9 metric tons … out of this state. Now. I want it out now."

Graham's call for speedy removal comes less than one week after the National Nuclear Security Administration's general counsel, Bruce Diamond, announced a half-metric-ton of defense plutonium was shipped from SRS to the Nevada National Security Site, about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

The relocation campaign, Diamond explained in a court declaration, was handled prior to November 2018.

Graham was seemingly unimpressed by the amount moved: "Yeah, that's not much of a comfort to me," he said Monday.

The U.S. Department of Energy is required by court order to remove 1 metric ton of weapons-grade plutonium from South Carolina by 2020. 

The DOE also faces a maximum $100 million fine each year it does not process plutonium via MOX – a venture terminated by the NNSA late last year – or more generally does not remove 1 metric ton of it from the state.

South Carolina is currently negotiating a potential settlement with the DOE regarding the $200 million owed from 2016 and 2017, according to court records. But on Monday, Graham said he doesn't "want the money."

"I want the stuff out," he said, continuing: "I want a pathway forward out of the state; I thought MOX provided that pathway. Now that MOX has been apparently terminated, I am more interested in a pathway out for the plutonium than I am about anything else."

Graham was one of MOX's most fervent supporters.

Last summer, the senior senator introduced an amendment to the fiscal year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act that would prevent the DOE from ending the MOX project.

While the amendment was approved on the Senate side, it did not make it into the final NDAA. President Donald Trump signed the FY19 NDAA into law in August 2018.

Colin Demarest is the government and Savannah River Site reporter with the Aiken Standard. Follow him on Twitter: @demarest_colin