Auditors said the Energy Department may repeat missteps that led to cost and schedule overruns in an initiative to eliminate weapon-grade plutonium.
Officials used an “immature design” to establish a 2007 “baseline” plan for a new facility to convert the plutonium into mixed-oxide reactor fuel, the Energy Department’s inspector general said in a new report. Gregory Friedman and his audit team said the move led to inappropriately optimistic predictions on construction costs and employee turnover. Ultimately, ramifications included three years of delays and nearly $3 billion in unexpected costs for the project at South Carolina’s Savannah River Site.
“We remain concerned with the project management issues observed during the audit,” Friedman said in the May 22 assessment.
He said the problems found by his office’s investigation and by similar probes are “applicable to the future direction of the MOX Facility and other large department construction projects.” Previously, the Army Corps of Engineers determined that the MOX plant would cost $30 billion to build and maintain.
The Energy Department earlier this year announced plans to mothball the MOX facility, due to rising costs and schedule delays. The department’s semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration is still evaluating options for disposing of the 34 metric tons of excess U.S. weapons-grade plutonium, as required under a nonproliferation deal with Russia.
“This assessment and [an] associated independent review are expected to be completed in the next 12 to 18 months,” according to the inspector general’s report. “We are hopeful that the audit results can help to inform the current project reassessment.”
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Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.