Areva: DOE wants to cut budget for mixed oxide fabrication plant

Areva said President Obama’s fiscal year 2015 budget proposal does not include enough funding for the planned Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility located at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

“As part of an ongoing analysis of options to dispose of U.S. surplus plutonium, it has become apparent that the Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility will be significantly more expensive than anticipated, and therefore, the Budget Request places the MOX Facility in cold stand-by while the Department evaluates plutonium disposition options,” according to the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)’s budget proposal.

The MOX fuel approach is significantly more expensive than planned and it is not viable within the FY 2015 funding levels.”

Areva said in a release that putting the project in cold standby is a euphemism for terminating the project. The MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility turns weapon-grade plutonium into civilian purposes such as fuel for nuclear power plants as part of a nuclear weapon nonproliferation mission with Russia.

“We are disappointed that after multiple direct negotiations with the Department of Energy to firm the construction cost and schedule, and after recently receiving additional construction funds and reprogrammed funds from Congress, the DOE calls for, in essence, a cessation of a previously approved program,” Areva said in the release.

Shaw Areva MOX Services LLC has a contract with the NNSA to design, build and operate the facility. The NNSA conducted a year-long review of the project and said they may provide alternatives more quickly and cost effectively, and that is why the MOX Project would be stopped, Areva said.

DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz said during a press conference that, despite the growing price tag of the project, DOE remains committed to disposing of the plutonium.

“From our current approach, we are talking about a $30 billion plus lifecycle budget across all components of what it takes to do MOX to dispose of the 34 metric tons,” Moniz said in a statement. “We remained completely committed to the disposal, but with the budget, we are going into standby mode.”

Moniz said there is a taskforce that is working with the contractors to see if there is another way to substantially reduce costs for MOX, but DOE is looking at other possibilities as well.

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