AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) - Thousands of jobs and billions of dollars on the line at Savannah River Site.
The future of the $17 billion dollar Mixed Oxide Facility, known as MOX, is now in the hands of Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.
The MOX facility has been under construction since 2007. The Department of Energy set a completion date of 2048 for the project. The facility's purpose is to convert surplus plutonium, used for nuclear weapons, into a safe fuel to power homes. MOX was part of the Russian and United States agreement to decommission surplus plutonium. Now, 11 years into construction, it's estimated $5.4 billion dollars has been invested into the project.
Savannah River Site Watch Director Tom Clements fears South Carolina's bad luck with failed nuclear projects is not over. Clements says new legislation gives Secretary of Energy Rick Perry full control over the Mixed-Oxide Facility.
"The Omnibus Appropriations, on March 22, have given the power to Secretary Perry to terminate the project if it can be shown that another alternative is half the cost of MOX, which I think they will be able to do." Clements told WJBF NewsChannel 6. "It's in Secretary Perry's hands now and not Senator Lindsey Graham."
$335 million dollars was set aside in this years federal budget for the on-going construction of the facility. Still, Clements says that's barely enough money to keep the $17 billion dollar project afloat and at this point no one has a clear stance on the progress of construction.
"I was actually a little bit shocked when both Rick Perry and the new head of the National Nuclear Security Administration said that the project was actually significantly under 50 percent complete," he said.
The S.R.S. Watch Director says poor management has led to this disaster on top of it being too costly, which leads him to believe all signs point to the end of MOX and yet another mass layoff of nuclear power workers in South Carolina. He knows there's a viable and cheaper alternative and has not doubt Secretary Perry will be able to prove that.
"He has 30 days after he receives those documents, and passes them to Congress, and he can terminate the MOX project," Clements said. "This has never been the case before."
Secretary Perry has to make a choice, but there's not telling when that will happen. Clements believes it could be by early summer.
WJBF NewsChannel 6 did reach out to Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Tim Scott. At this time Scott has not responded to our request for comment.
A spokesperson for Senator Graham's office sent us this statement:
Sen. Graham questioned Secretary Perry last week at an Armed Services Committee Hearing and went over this in detail. Here’s a link to the questioning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AyCGcBmDpsE&t=7s
A spokesperson for Senator Tim Scott sent us this statement:
"At the end of the day, Senator Scott wants to see the MOX project be fully funded, and is optimistic that the amount appropriated in the current draft of the spending bill allows the MOX mission to continue. The Senator remains committed to upholding the requirements of the nuclear nonproliferation agreement, and the MOX project is the only solution that meets the objective."
According to the project website 4,000 people work for MOX.
Count on WJBF NewsChannel 6 to bring you the latest on this developing story.
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