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NNSA delivered MOX termination notice this week; construction expected to wind down

October 13, 2018

The National Nuclear Security Administration delivered an official termination notice to Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility project contractors and guarantors on Oct. 10.

“This notice terminates the contract in its entirety, and is effective immediately,” the notice, which the Aiken Standard obtained, reads.

The notice, essentially, heralds the wind-down process at the project. Preservation of the facility and its associated resources is absolutely expected, according to the notice.

On Friday, a NNSA spokesperson confirmed the termination delivery in a statement to the Aiken Standard.

The seven-page termination notice came just one day after federal appeals judges lifted a lower court’s preliminary injunction, an injunction that was protecting the MOX project and its related construction.

Both the NNSA statement and the termination notice acknowledge the timing.

S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster on Wednesday said he was not happy with the appellate court’s decision. S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson on Tuesday said he was “disappointed,” adding that the ruling was “inconsistent with governing law.”

MOX is an incomplete nuclear facility designed to turn weapons-grade plutonium into commercial reactor fuel. MOX, controversial and more than a decade in the making, is located at the Savannah River Site.

MOX was initially expected to come online in 2016 at a cost of $4.8 billion. Both the project’s timeline and price tag have seriously bloated since then.

The NNSA, a semiautonomous U.S. Department of Energy agency, oversees the MOX project.

On May 10, U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry exercised his congressionally given power to kill MOX, which later spawned a lawsuit from the state of South Carolina.

That same day, the NNSA and the U.S. Department of Defense recommended recapitalizing MOX infrastructure for an enduring plutonium pit production mission. Pits are nuclear weapon cores.

On Sept. 14, NNSA chief Lisa Gordon-Hagerty wrote to U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, and reaffirmed Perry’s plans to end the MOX project.

On Friday, U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, a South Carolina Republican who strongly supports MOX, said he and Thornberry had discussed Gordon-Hagerty’s letter.

“I just told him how disappointed I was,” Wilson said, describing their conversation as very brief. Both congressmen are members of the House Armed Services Committee.

The Oct. 10 MOX termination notice was sent to Rex Norton, the vice president for contracts and supply chain management at CB&I Areva MOX Services.

MOX Services is the prime contractor for the project.

The MOX workforce – about 1,800 people, but the figure see-saws – will now transition to “preserving the construction site in a safe and secure manner,” according to the notice.

The NNSA spokesperson’s statement said the agency is “committed” to supporting the current MOX workers.

“There will continue to be a significant need for the talented workers at the Savannah River Site to support NNSA’s enduring nuclear security missions,” the NNSA statement reads.

Over the summer, when MOX termination was on the horizon, email correspondence between project and federal energy officials stated hundreds of MOX employees could get laid off upon full work stoppage.

It is not immediately clear if those estimates are still applicable.

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