MOX Steel, Welding, Pile and Truck

Daniel Ball, a welding instructor at the Aiken County Career Center, right, examines the donated stainless steel with Tina Paschal, Nicole Henley and Rachel Baxley of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions.

Thousands of pounds of unneeded stainless steel left over from the canceled Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility has been donated to more than a dozen schools and career centers, better enabling hands-on training for those pursuing welding careers.

The material went to institutions across South Carolina and Georgia. The first donation was made to Allendale Fairfax High School in Allendale. Others were made to the Aiken County Career Center, South Aiken High School, Wagener-Salley High School and Grovetown High School.

The stainless steel was determined to be surplus by the U.S. Department of Energy and its weapons-and-nonproliferation arm, the National Nuclear Security Administration. The NNSA in October 2018 terminated the MOX project contract at the Savannah River Site after more than a decade of work and billions of dollars had been invested.

The stainless steel – expensive material – was determined not needed at SRS or at other nuclear complexes across the country.

Savannah River Nuclear Solutions President and CEO Stuart MacVean brought up the steel donations in an early-November guest column in the Aiken Standard. Savannah River Nuclear Solutions is the managing contractor at the site.

The repurposing of the stainless steel is part of the NNSA's strategy for handling what is left of the scuttled MOX project, which at one point employed more than 1,500 people.

While some things from the axed nuclear fuel facility have been sent for use at other Energy Department projects and facilities, other things, like this steel, face a different fate.

"This is scrap material to us, but it's something the schools usually can’t get and could use to prepare students for really good jobs," said Mark Hall with SRNS. "Usually, welders don't get to train with stainless until they're already on the job. With access to this material, they can be trained and ready when they arrive."

The National Nuclear Security Administration and Savannah River Nuclear Solutions announced the donations on Monday afternoon. MacVean and the NNSA's Savannah River Site manager, Nicole Nelson-Jean, have previously discussed the repurposing of MOX property.

Colin Demarest covers the Savannah River Site, the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Nuclear Security Administration and government in general. Follow him on Twitter: @demarest_colin