October MOX meeting with Trump, Energy Department was ‘very lively’

November 12, 2018

An Oct. 18 White House meeting about the future of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility was animated and fully involved, according to South Carolina officials who participated.

S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson on Nov. 5 described the conversation — which included President Donald Trump, U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and National Nuclear Security Administration chief Lisa Gordon-Hagerty — as “very lively, very lively.”

Wilson attended the White House meeting alongside S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster, U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson and U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott. The attorney general said things eventually got “forceful.”

Alan Wilson also said the state’s “federal delegation” is “very hot” on the MOX issue.

In mid-October, Graham said he would battle for MOX — an incomplete, contract-canceled facility at the Savannah River Site designed to create nuclear fuel — harder than he did for Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

“And I’m confident that we’re going to fight,” the senior senator said at the time. “You thought Kavanaugh was a fight? You ain’t seen nothing yet over this.”

On Nov. 8, Graham issued a scathing statement, slashing the DOE and painting its MOX termination decision as “a colossal mistake.”

“I view DOE’s shortsighted decision as the federal government breaking its commitment to South Carolina,” the senator continued.

In late October, Joe Wilson said Graham, during the White House meeting, made it “emphatically clear” — the congressman raising his eyebrows — the MOX alternative, dilute-and-dispose, would not work. The congressman also said the South Carolina delegation disagreed with what Perry and Gordon-Hagerty presented.

Dilute-and-dispose is a plutonium disposition method, which involves mixing plutonium with inert material for longterm burial. The plutonium at SRS would be sent to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico in this particular case. It’s Perry’s preferred pathway.

Graham, on Nov. 8, called dilute-and-dispose “half-baked” and “not feasible.”

McMaster, on Nov. 4, said the keen White House conversation made Trump “highly interested” in the MOX saga.

Alan Wilson said the president “received” the information.

“I think it registered that this is important to us,” the attorney general said. “I think it’s on his radar now more than it was before the meeting. I truly believe that.”

The observable effects of the get-together, though, are lacking. On Nov. 8, layoff notifications were sent to the first batch of project workers.

MOX is on a shutdown track, and the NNSA — in a statement of work, which the Aiken Standard obtained — has laid out about one year of mothballing work for the facility.

In legal arguments and corresponding court documents, the state has described actual MOX termination as irreversible and seriously damaging.

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