Lawmakers Challenge Obama’s Spending Authority to Halt Plutonium Project

Global Security Newswire Staff
April 1, 2014, 9:36 a.m.

Twenty-one law­makers on Monday said Pres­id­ent Obama can­not draw from a plutoni­um-con­ver­sion plant’s con­struc­tion fund to keep the pro­ject on hold.

The En­ergy De­part­ment’s 2015 budget pro­pos­al calls for paus­ing work on the un­fin­ished plant, which would con­vert bomb plutoni­um in­to mixed-ox­ide re­act­or fuel at the Sa­van­nah River Site in South Car­o­lina. The MOX fa­cil­ity con­struc­tion began after Wash­ing­ton and Mo­scow agreed to be­gin in 2018 to elim­in­ate plutoni­um from their stock­piles.

Con­gress “ex­pli­citly” des­ig­nated funds in fisc­al 2014 for “con­struc­tion” of the fa­cil­ity, the le­gis­lat­ors said in a let­ter to En­ergy Sec­ret­ary Ern­est Mon­iz. Missive sign­ers in­cluded South Car­o­lina’s sev­en House rep­res­ent­at­ives, as well as law­makers from Flor­ida, Geor­gia, Louisi­ana, Ten­ness­ee, North Car­o­lina, Vir­gin­ia and Wash­ing­ton state.

“The funds were not au­thor­ized or ap­pro­pri­ated for cold-standby, and we re­quest they be used only for con­struc­tion as Con­gress in­ten­ded,” the let­ter says. “The in­tent of Con­gress is be­ing ig­nored and as a res­ult we may see a usurp­a­tion of Con­gress’ power of the purse.”

The law­makers ad­ded they had “nev­er seen” how the Army Corps of En­gin­eers de­term­ined that the MOX plant would cost $30 bil­lion to build and main­tain, and they pressed for dis­clos­ure of the cal­cu­la­tions.

“Moreover, we re­quest a study to ana­lyze the cost as­so­ci­ated with pla­cing MOX in­to cold-standby, which is es­tim­ated to be between $700 and $900 mil­lion,” they wrote.

Mean­while, con­struc­tion of the MOX fa­cil­ity is pro­ceed­ing, us­ing cur­rent-year funds, the Au­gusta Chron­icle re­por­ted on Monday.

“We con­tin­ue build­ing the MOX Fuel Fab­ric­a­tion Fa­cil­ity un­der our [fisc­al year] 2014 budget and dir­ec­tion,” Kelly Trice, pres­id­ent of Shaw Areva MOX Ser­vices, said in a state­ment to site work­ers.

What We're Following See More »
More People Watched Trump’s Acceptance Speech
15 hours ago

Hillary Clinton hopes that television ratings for the candidates' acceptance speeches at their respective conventions aren't foreshadowing of similar results at the polls in November. Preliminary results from the networks and cable channels show that 34.9 million people tuned in for Donald Trump's acceptance speech while 33.3 million watched Clinton accept the Democratic nomination. However, it is still possible that the numbers are closer than these ratings suggest: the numbers don't include ratings from PBS or CSPAN, which tend to attract more Democratic viewers.