$220M requested for ‘orderly and safe’ closure of MOX, budget documents show

March 21, 2019

President Donald Trump’s latest budget request heralds the administration’s continued desire to mothball the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility and pursue another avenue of weapons-grade plutonium disposition.

His fiscal year 2020 budget pitch – released last week, and the finer details are being rolled out now – includes $220 million for the “orderly and safe closure” of MOX, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s lengthy budget justification.

The request also includes $79 million to support dilute-and-dispose, the MOX alternative. A summary portion of Trump’s budget states dilute-and-dispose will be “aggressively” backed.

The potential funding falls under the umbrella of the National Nuclear Security Administration, a semiautonomous DOE agency. The presidential request includes roughly $16.5 billion total for the NNSA. That figure is heavily dominated by the “weapons activities” account.

Trump’s FY19 budget request included $220 million for MOX shutdown and $59 million for dilute-and-dispose.

The NNSA terminated the MOX project, located at the Savannah River Site, on Oct. 10, 2018, five months after U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry told congressional defense committees he would ax the undertaking.

MOX – more than a decade in the making and marred by both cost and schedule overruns – was designed to turn surplus defense plutonium into nuclear fuel.

Dilute-and-dispose involves mixing plutonium with inert material for longterm burial at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.

Both Perry and NNSA chief Lisa Gordon-Hagerty have said dilute-and-dispose trumps MOX. For one, it’s approximately half the lifecycle cost, $19.9 billion compared to $49.4 billion, Perry has certified.

U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., on March 12 said he appreciates the president’s specific mention and support of dilute-and-dispose.

Wilson represents South Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District.