The Energy Department on Tuesday said construction of a mixed-oxide plant will continue for now, though the intention is to eventually ax the project.
“We will continue with construction activities through [fiscal] 2014, retaining the key nuclear engineers and other highly skilled workers that will be needed regardless of the path forward,” National Nuclear Security Administration spokesman Josh McConaha said in a statement to the Associated Press.
The Energy Department in its fiscal 2015 budget proposal said it planned to shut down work on the partially constructed MOX fuel fabrication facility in South Carolina due to the project’s high cost. That announcement was met by an outcry from the state of South Carolina, which is suing to keep the project going.
The department on Tuesday said it would not continue construction of the fuel fabrication facility past Sept. 30 — the end of the current fiscal year — unless it receives a pledge from Congress that further funding for building work would be approved to the tune of $500 million to $600 million annually until 2027, the New York Times reported.
The facility was intended to dispose of a large amount of surplus weapons-grade plutonium that the United States agreed to eliminate under a binding nonproliferation accord with Russia.
The National Nuclear Security Administration on Tuesday released a study into alternatives for disposing of the excess plutonium. The report focused on four alternative options: irradiating the plutonium in a fast reactor that would need to be built; immobilization; down-blending and storage at an existing underground nuclear-waste dump in New Mexico; and deep borehole disposal. The latter three options would all require a supplemental agreement to be worked out with Russia.
Down-blending the plutonium with inert materials and storing it at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant offered the smallest projected price tag at $8.8 billion.
Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, in a Tuesday analysis said the down-blending option was the best alternative, due to its comparatively low cost and technical risk.
The WIPP facility, however, is not presently accepting new shipments of radioactive waste, due to an accident earlier this year that caused the release of some radioactive elements.
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."