South Carolina’s Attorney General Alan Wilson filed a lawsuit with the Department of Energy (DOE) after the DOE announced their plans to stop construction at the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility, located on the Savannah River Site (SRS) near Aiken, South Carolina.
The lawsuit claims that Energy Secretary Rick Perry didn’t consult with S.C. Governor Henry McMaster before ending construction with a “stop work order” and the Energy Department did not perform an analysis of how to store the plutonium that is already located at the SRS.
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (SC) told the U.S. Senate Appropriation Committee that “Somebody needs to be held accountable for starting programs like this, signing deals with the Russians and saying, ‘Oh, never mind,’ when you get 70 percent of it built”.
You may recall that the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility was designed to turn weapons-grade plutonium into commercial reactor fuel based on a 2000 pact between the U.S. and Russia (Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement) that required each country to dispose of 34 metric tons of plutonium. This facility has been a work-in-progress for more than a decade now, ballooning well past its initial $4.8 billion budget.
The DOE now plans to pursue the “dilute and dispose” method for disposal. Under the dilute and disposal method the SRS facility would be used to dilute the plutonium and then it would be disposed of at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico. However, the National Nuclear Security Administration suggests that the SRS make new plutonium pits for nuclear weapons, as well. If this occurs, disposal would be carried out at both site facilities.
S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson called the decision to end the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility another chapter in the long, tortured history of broken promises by the federal government to South Carolina.