South Carolina congressmen say SRS has money for fuel project
by Meg Kinnard, Associated Press
July 28, 2014 02:55 PM | 1075 views | 1 1 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print

SAVANNAH RIVER SITE, S.C. (AP) — Federal legislators have secured enough money to make sure a nuclear fuel project at the Savannah River Site goes forward, according to South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and members of the state's congressional delegation.

But the governmental leaders also told news reporters during a meeting with U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz they want to ensure that the state doesn't become a permanent home for the world's nuclear trash.

Last fall, Haley invited Moniz to visit the Savannah River Site, a sprawling complex along the South Carolina-Georgia border. The 310-square mile site once produced components for nuclear weapons, but its primary focus now is on repurposing and cleanup.

Construction began in 2007 on the mixed-oxide fuel plant, known as MOX, which is part of an agreement with Russia to turn nuclear weapons into reactor fuel. The project is currently billions of dollars over budget and experienced yearslong delays.

The Obama administration had said it wanted to put the project on hold, saying it was becoming too expensive and suggesting that another method be found to dispose of the plutonium, in order to uphold the agreement with Russia. South Carolina sued, saying money set aside to build the plant couldn't be used to shut it down, and the administration has committed to continuing construction into the fall, when the current fiscal year ends.

On Monday, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott said that congressional budgets have the money to keep the mixed oxide fuel project from being suspended, at least in the next fiscal year.

"It won't go to cold standby as far as we can tell," Scott said, saying that a House proposal already includes money to keep the project open, while a continuing resolution that will likely be hashed out in the Senate will have the funding, too.

"There's money for MOX," Graham said. "There is no cheaper alternative to MOX, and now is not the time to break an agreement with the Russians."

Moniz said Monday that construction on MOX will continue at least into fall, adding that all sides need to come up with a long-term funding plan for the site.

"We need a trajectory that gives adequate funding in a sustained way for the project," Moniz said.

The leaders were questioned about talks with countries like Germany to bring highly radioactive waste to Savannah River for reprocessing. Haley and others reiterated the desire that South Carolina not become a permanent home for the world's trash, instead of a temporary one, in the absence of a repository like the one that had been planned at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

"What we do not need is for this state to continue to be a dumping ground," Haley said. "We'll continue to fight."

If certain goals for moving the waste aren't met, the senators said, the federal government could incur fines of $1 million per day.

"The waste is going to leave South Carolina as promised, and if it doesn't, the federal government is going to pay a fine," Graham said.


Kinnard can be reached at

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Tom Clements
July 28, 2014
At the meeting on July 28, I delivered a letter to Secretary Moniz and asked that construction of the plutonium fuel (MOX) plant be put on cold standby and that the unprecedented plan to import highly radioactive spent fuel from Germany to the Savannah River Site (in South Carolina) be terminated. I asked Moniz about the cost of the MOX program and he said it was not sustainable and that it required "north of $600 million" per year to make it viable. I calculate that the MOX boondoggle could need $800 million/year and will need that amount for about 25 years, which will destroy the DOE budget and violate spending restrictions. Time to terminate MOX and move on to disposing of plutonium as waste. The 310-square mile Savannah River Site is not a high-level nuclear waste dump and we don't want German spent fuel being dumped here in South Carolina. Reflecting public opposition, many local papers have come out against the half-baked scheme. Tom Clements, Director, Savannah River Site Watch,, Columbia, SC
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