Administration Revises Timeline for Plutonium Disposition Review

None

Douglas P. Guarino, Global Security Newswire
See more stories about...
Douglas P. Guarino, Global Security Newswire
Oct. 11, 2013, 11:02 a.m.

WASH­ING­TON — The Na­tion­al Nuc­le­ar Se­cur­ity Ad­min­is­tra­tion is back­ing away from state­ments it made earli­er this month in­dic­at­ing that an as­sess­ment of its op­tions for dis­pos­ing sur­plus weapons-grade plutoni­um would not be com­plete un­til the spring of 2014 — a date ob­serv­ers said could have caused fur­ther con­struc­tion delays at a con­tro­ver­sial re­pro­cessing fa­cil­ity in South Car­o­lina.

Con­struc­tion of the mixed-ox­ide fuel fab­ric­a­tion fa­cil­ity has been slowed since the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced in April that it was re­as­sess­ing its op­tions for dis­pos­ing of the plutoni­um. The MOX fa­cil­ity would con­vert the ma­ter­i­al in­to fuel for nuc­le­ar power plants, but a series of delays and cost over­runs promp­ted the ad­min­is­tra­tion to study wheth­er there are more ef­fi­cient op­tions.

A con­tract­ing no­tice the agency made pub­lic on Oct. 4 said it ex­pec­ted the as­sess­ment to be fin­ished in mid-fisc­al 2014, or spring of the cal­en­dar year. Such tim­ing could have meant fund­ing cuts for MOX con­struc­tion would re­main in place an ad­di­tion­al year, giv­en that the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s an­nu­al budget pro­pos­al typ­ic­ally is re­leased earli­er in the year, Tom Cle­m­ents, of the watch­dog group Friends of the Earth told Glob­al Se­cur­ity News­wire.

However, the ad­min­is­tra­tion on Thursday re­leased a re­vised ver­sion of the no­tice that omits any in­form­a­tion per­tain­ing to when the as­sess­ment will be fin­ished. An En­ergy De­part­ment of­fi­cial told GSN Fri­day that the pri­or state­ment sug­gest­ing the re­view would not be com­plete un­til mid-fisc­al 2014 was made in er­ror. The of­fi­cial, who was not au­thor­ized to dis­cuss the is­sue and asked not to be named, said the as­sess­ment would likely be com­pleted soon­er, pos­sibly be­fore the end of 2013.

Like the earli­er ver­sion, the re­vised no­tice an­nounces the ex­ten­sion of a con­tract to do work on a sup­ple­ment­al en­vir­on­ment­al im­pact state­ment for plutoni­um dis­pos­i­tion which ori­gin­ally had been sched­uled for re­lease earli­er this year. Anne Har­ring­ton, deputy NNSA ad­min­is­trat­or for de­fense nuc­le­ar non­pro­lif­er­a­tion, told GSN in Au­gust that the agency would not re­lease the en­vir­on­ment­al doc­u­ment un­til after it com­pleted the as­sess­ment of dis­pos­al op­tions.

Sim­il­arly, the earli­er ver­sion of the con­tract no­tice re­leased Oct. 4 cited the on­go­ing re­view as one reas­on why work on the en­vir­on­ment­al im­pact state­ment would con­tin­ue in­to 2014. However, the re­vi­sion is­sued Thursday says the con­tract ex­ten­sion “is not as­so­ci­ated with the De­part­ment’s as­sess­ment of al­tern­at­ive plutoni­um dis­pos­i­tion strategies.”

Ac­cord­ing to the un­named En­ergy De­part­ment of­fi­cial, this lan­guage in the re­vised no­tice is not meant to con­tra­dict Har­ring­ton’s pri­or state­ment. The source ac­know­ledged that the two items are re­lated in the sense that, if the on­go­ing as­sess­ment causes the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pre­ferred op­tion for plutoni­um dis­pos­i­tion to change, the en­vir­on­ment­al im­pact state­ment would have to re­flect that change.

The lan­guage in the re­vised no­tice is in­stead meant to in­dic­ate that the con­tract ex­ten­sion it­self is not dir­ectly de­pend­ent on the as­sess­ment of op­tions, the En­ergy De­part­ment of­fi­cial said.

The no­tice ex­tends the con­tract for work re­lated to the en­vir­on­ment­al im­pact state­ment un­til Novem­ber 2014. The state­ment it­self is ex­pec­ted by April 2014, ac­cord­ing to the re­vised no­tice.

What We're Following See More »
TAKING A LONG VIEW TO SOUTHERN STATES
In Dropout Speech, Santorum Endorses Rubio
2 days ago
THE DETAILS

As expected after earlier reports on Wednesday, Rick Santorum ended his presidential bid. But less expected: he threw his support to Marco Rubio. After noting he spoke with Rubio the day before for an hour, he said, “Someone who has a real understanding of the threat of ISIS, real understanding of the threat of fundamentalist Islam, and has experience, one of the things I wanted was someone who has experience in this area, and that’s why we decided to support Marco Rubio.” It doesn’t figure to help Rubio much in New Hampshire, but the Santorum nod could pay dividends down the road in southern states.

Source:
‘PITTING PEOPLE AGAINST EACH OTHER’
Rubio, Trump Question Obama’s Mosque Visit
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

President Obama’s decision to visit a mosque in Baltimore today was never going to be completely uncontroversial. And Donald Trump and Marco Rubio proved it. “Maybe he feels comfortable there,” Trump told interviewer Greta van Susteren on Fox News. “There are a lot of places he can go, and he chose a mosque.” And in New Hampshire, Rubio said of Obama, “Always pitting people against each other. Always. Look at today – he gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims.”

Source:
THE TIME IS NOW, TED
Cruz Must Max Out on Evangelical Support through Early March
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

For Ted Cruz, a strong showing in New Hampshire would be nice, but not necessary. That’s because evangelical voters only make up 21% of the Granite State’s population. “But from the February 20 South Carolina primary through March 15, there are nine states (South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, and North Carolina) with an estimated white-Evangelical percentage of the GOP electorate over 60 percent, and another four (Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, and Missouri) that come in over 50 percent.” But after that, he better be in the catbird’s seat, because only four smaller states remain with evangelical voter majorities.

Source:
CHRISTIE, BUSH TRYING TO TAKE HIM DOWN
Rubio Now Winning the ‘Endorsement Primary’
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Since his strong third-place finish in Iowa, Marco Rubio has won endorsement by two sitting senators and two congressmen, putting him in the lead for the first time of FiveThirtyEight‘s Endorsement Tracker. “Some politicians had put early support behind Jeb Bush — he had led [their] list since August — but since January the only new endorsement he has received was from former presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham.” Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that fueled by resentment, “members of the Bush and Christie campaigns have communicated about their mutual desire to halt … Rubio’s rise in the polls.”

Source:
7 REPUBLICANS ON STAGE
Carly Fiorina Will Not Be Allowed to Debate on Saturday
1 days ago
THE LATEST

ABC News has announced the criteria for Saturday’s Republican debate, and that means Carly Fiorina won’t be a part of it. The network is demanding candidates have “a top-three finish in Iowa, a top-six standing in an average of recent New Hampshire polls or a top-six placement in national polls in order for candidates to qualify.” And there will be no “happy hour” undercard debate this time. “So that means no Fiorina vs. Jim Gilmore showdown earlier in the evening for the most ardent of campaign 2016 junkies.

Source:
×