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NNSA chief reaffirms MOX cancellation efforts in letter to congressman

September 26, 2018

U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry fully intends to terminate the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility project, according to communication between the leader of the National Nuclear Security Administration and a congressman.

On Sept. 14, NNSA chief Lisa Gordon-Hagerty – no supporter of MOX herself – wrote to U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, and reaffirmed Perry’s MOX-killing waiver, which was submitted to congressional defense committees earlier this year.

Gordon-Hagerty’s letter was attached to court documents filed Sept. 24 in federal appeals court.

Thornberry is the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

The fate of MOX is set to be argued at the appellate level later this week. The appeals arguments come after U.S. District Court Judge J. Michelle Childs granted the state of South Carolina and the plutonium disposition project a preliminary injunction, essentially staving off full-blown MOX shutdown and related layoffs.

MOX is currently being built at the Savannah River Site. Once complete, which Perry and Gordon-Hagerty have said will take dozens more years, MOX is designed to transform at least 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium into fuel for commercial reactors. The project is more than a decade in the making and has surpassed its initial budget.

The MOX project is overseen by the NNSA, a semiautonomous U.S. Department of Energy agency in charge of the nation’s nuclear complex and related nonproliferation.

The 2018 and 2019 National Defense Authorization Acts, both signed into law, permit Perry to waive a requirement to carry out construction and support services for the MOX project given proper, certifiable and cheaper alternatives.

Perry exercised that power in May.

MOX alternatives, namely dilute-and-dispose, have been ridiculed by South Carolina officials.

On Sept. 21, President Donald Trump signed the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act.

The funding minibus directly included $220 million for continued MOX construction. DOE budget documents have described that level of funding as enough to continue orderly and safe closure of the facility.

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