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.

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