Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 12, 2020

SRS Plutonium Fuel (MOX) Plant Continues to Spin Out of Control: Cost Jumps to $7.7 Billion, with Three Year Delay

By Thomas Clements | Mar 20, 2013
Photo by: Tom Clements, SRS Watchdog The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a stunning new estimate for the plutonium fuel (MOX) plant under construction at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina:  a massive $7.7 billion.The figure was released by GAO in a statement to a House Energy and Water Subcommittee on March 20.  At the same hearing, Department of Energy and National Nuclear Security Administration officials refused to reveal the new costs estimate, deepening the cover-up of the mismanagement and cost overruns of the project.The DOE budget is to be released on April 8 and impacts to the MOX project will be known at that time.  Due to looming budget cuts and lack of customers to use the experimental fuel made from weapons-grade plutonium, it appears that the issuance of the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) on MOX use will be further delayed and may not be issued.  Despite misleading statements by AREVA and others, MOX made from weapons-grade plutonium has never been used commercially in any reactor worldwide.

NNSA Cover-up of MOX Cost Overruns Continues at Congressional Hearing

 

Three-Year Delay Spells Doom for MOX Madness

Columbia, South Carolina - Today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has confirmed that problems with the Department of Energy’s (DOE) plutonium fuel (MOX) program continue to worsen and costs soar.

The GAO, in a statement released today at a congressional hearing, dropped a bombshell that further justifies termination of the MOX project at the Savannah River Site:

DOE is currently forecasting an increase in the total project cost for the MOX facility from $4.9 billion to $7.7 billion and a delay in the start of operations from October 2016 to November 2019."

The statement, entitled “Concerns with Major Construction Projects at the Office of Environmental Management and NNSA, was released as testimony was given by a GAO official before a hearing by the House Energy and Water Subcommittee on problems with DOE’s mismanagement of large construction projects.

With this stunning news, it appears that the MOX project is doomed to elimination.

“The years of hard work by public interest groups to terminate funding for the MOX program is paying off,” said Tom Clements.   “Predictions that MOX costs would spin out of control have proved correct and it is now time for DOE to immediately begin a study for cheaper, safer plutonium disposition alternatives, a so-called Plan B.”

At the hearing, DOE and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNAS) officials confirmed chronic problems in managing such large, costly projects as MOX, but left it to GAO to outline details of cost overruns with the MOX program.

Failure by DOE and NNSA officials in the Office of Acquisition and Project Management to reveal details of cost overruns of the MOX program goes to the heart of the on-going cover-up of MOX plant mismanagement and cost increases.

After two years, DOE still continues to claim it is “rebaselining” the cost of the MOX plant and that the new cost estimate cannot be released.  Yet, the same officials at today’s hearing cut the legs out from under this excuse by admitting that quarterly report are sent to the GAO about the project and an “earned value management system” tracks costs on a monthly basis.

The time for endless excuses about problems and costs with the MOX program may well be coming to an end after years by DOE and NNSA of artfully dodging accountability.

The cost of the MOX plant construction has soared from an estimated $1.8 billion in 2004 to $4.9 billion in 2008 to a jaw-dropping $7.7 billion on March 20, 2103.  Will the cost estimate hit $8 billion by April 1?

DOE /NNSA/AREVA is also refusing to release an overall life-cycle cost estimate for plutonium disposition, estimated to be on the order of $18 billion yet to be spent.

More will be known about the fate of the problem-plagued MOX project when the DOE budget request for Fiscal Year 2014 is released on April 8.  Rumors persist that the project will be cut $500 million this year and only funded in out years enough to close the program out.  Predictably, Senator MOX (Lindsey Graham) continues to push for a blank check for the project inn his home state of South Carolina but it appears to have spun too far out of control for him to save it.

DOE indicated in the Fiscal Year 2013 budget request that it would need $3.6 billion for the project from Fiscal Years 2014-2017, so what it is likely to get is far below what it needs to keep the project going.

Now that the roof of the MOX plant is being finished, a good stopping point to save the building for other use has been reached.

“It has been painful for true fiscal conservatives and advocates of good government to watch the huge waste for the MOX program, said Tom Clements, SRS public interest watchdog based in Columbia, South Carolina.

“Now, it must be determined who in the Department of Energy, the National Nuclear Security Administration and Shaw AREVA MOX services is accountable for a boondoggle of massive proportions.”

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Contact Tom Clements in Columbia, SC - 60 miles from the Savannah River Site - at tomclementssc at gmail dot com

 

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