Termination of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility will be completed in fiscal year 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's latest budget documents, a milestone marking the end of one multibillion-dollar project and, perhaps, the beginnings of another.
Mothballing MOX, a nuclear fuel facility canceled by the National Nuclear Security Administration in late 2018, has involved demolition and disposition of property, retrieving key materials and documents, laying off workers and readying the actual footprint for future use – likely plutonium pit production, the forging of nuclear weapon cores.
Dave Olson, the pit production mission director with Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, the top contractor at the Savannah River Site, last week said the closing out of MOX has left his team with roughly 9 million pieces of "uninstalled equipment" that were bought and never "put in."
About 7 million pieces have been flagged for reuse in plutonium pit production as well as the Surplus Plutonium Disposition project, the MOX alternative more commonly known as dilute-and-dispose, a process to get rid of metric tons of declared-excess weapons plutonium.
Olson said the repurposed equipment will save the government money and offers a hand up in terms of project schedules.
Thousands of pounds of unwanted stainless steel left over from the MOX project was donated to more than a dozen schools in South Carolina and Georgia last year.
Other Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility equipment and property has gone to the Uranium Processing Facility project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
The National Nuclear Security Administration, the semiautonomous weapons-and-nonproliferation arm of the U.S. Department of Energy, in October 2018 axed the MOX project, which had been more than a decade in the making.
Five months prior, the NNSA and the U.S. Department of Defense jointly recommended repurposing the never-completed plant for a majority stake in plutonium pit production: making 50 pits per year by 2030, while Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico makes 30 per year.
National Nuclear Security Administration Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs Charles Verdon said Feb. 12 his agency "certainly" remains "laser-beam focused on the 2030 goal of 80 pits per year."
A NNSA spokesperson confirmed the MOX termination timeline to the Aiken Standard on Wednesday afternoon.