Initial round of MOX layoff notices issued Thursday

November 9, 2018

Layoff notices have been issued at the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility project, according to a person familiar with the matter as well as communication obtained by the Aiken Standard.

Project management delivered the first round of Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification act notices on Thursday, Nov. 8, according to internal bulletins issued by David Del Vecchio, the MOX Services president.

The process, contacting the batch of employees affected, took hours.

“I understand completely that this is a very stressful time for everyone,” one of Del Vecchio’s messages reads, “and ask that you please remain focused on your safety and your assigned work.”

It is not immediately clear how many workers — the imperiled project employs roughly 1,700 people — were set to receive WARN notices on Thursday.

One MOX worker, who the Aiken Standard has been in contact with, described the Thursday morning scene at MOX as “depressing.”

“People are just sitting around waiting to see if they get a notice today or not,” the person said. “It’s like a messed up lottery.”

According to Del Vecchio’s initial message, a second communication would be sent out when everyone in the first layoff round had been notified. That communication, also obtained by the Aiken Standard, was pushed out around 4 p.m.

The WARN act is a labor law that requires major employers to notify staff of mass layoffs or plant closures ahead of time. The WARN act affords workers 60 day’s notice.

Del Vecchio, in a prior employee-bound message, has said MOX layoffs would come in waves. The subsequent schedule, though, is unclear.

Del Vecchio has also said those laid off in the first round will not leave the project until after Jan. 1, 2019.

The project president on Thursday said the employee exit process will happen “during days 61 through 74.” That process includes securing one’s last paycheck and turning in one’s badge.

MOX Services is the prime contractor for the MOX project, an effectively dead and incomplete nuclear venture at the Savannah River Site. MOX, once complete, was designed to turn weapons-grade plutonium into fuel for commercial reactors.

After months of trying, and an intricate legal back-and-forth, the National Nuclear Security Administration executed MOX contract termination on Oct. 10. U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry has repeatedly expressed his contempt for the project — it’s over budget, behind schedule, and there’s a better, cheaper alternative, he’s said.

Meanwhile, the NNSA and the U.S. Department of Defense want to turn MOX into a plutonium pit production hub. The NNSA-DOD joint wish was made in May.

Plutonium pits are nuclear weapon cores. The NNSA and the DOD want to produce them at SRS and at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

It will take about one year of work to fully mothball MOX, according to a NNSA statement of work, an official document that lays out expected closure timelines. The Aiken Standard obtained that document, which was attached to the NNSA’s MOX termination notice, last month.

Questions posed to the NNSA about the layoffs were redirected to project contractors.

Update hourly