Energy Watchdog: Plutonium Plant’s Missteps Still Loom Large

Workers lay concrete in 2008 at the unfinished Mixed-Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility. The Energy Department's inspector general sees a risk of repeating errors that led to cost overruns in the project at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.
National Journal
Diane Barnes
Add to Briefcase
Diane Barnes
May 27, 2014, 10:57 a.m.

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.”

What We're Following See More »
BUT WHITE HOUSE MAY USE AGAINST HIM ANYWAY
Ethics Cops Clear Mueller to Work on Trump Case
16 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been cleared by U.S. Department of Justice ethics experts to oversee an investigation into possible collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and Russia." Some had speculated that the White House would use "an ethics rule limiting government attorneys from investigating people their former law firm represented" to trip up Mueller's appointment. Jared Kushner is a client of Mueller's firm, WilmerHale. "Although Mueller has now been cleared by the Justice Department, the White House may still use his former law firm's connection to Manafort and Kushner to undermine the findings of his investigation, according to two sources close to the White House."

Source:
BUSINESSES CAN’T PLEAD FIFTH
Senate Intel to Subpoena Two of Flynn’s Businesses
16 hours ago
THE LATEST

Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and ranking member Mark Warner (D-VA) will subpoena two businesses owned by former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Burr said, "We would like to hear from General Flynn. We'd like to see his documents. We'd like him to tell his story because he publicly said he had a story to tell."

DETAILS ARE CLASSIFIED
Brennan Saw Russia Intelligence “Worthy” of Investigation
22 hours ago
THE LATEST

At an open hearing of the House Intelligence Committee, former CIA chief John Brennan said he saw information on Trump-Russia contacts that were worth a further look. "Having been involved in many counterintelligence cases in the past, I know what the Russians do. They try to suborn individuals," Brennan said. "And they try to get individuals, including U.S. persons, to act on their behalf, whether wittingly or unwittingly. And I was worried by a number of the contacts that the Russians had with U.S. persons, and so therefore by the time I left office ... I had unresolved questions in my mind."

Source:
STAFF HAS COMPILED A SHORT LIST
Trump Enlisting Help of Outside Counsel
23 hours ago
THE LATEST

"President Trump is moving rapidly toward assembling outside counsel to help him navigate the investigations into his campaign and Russian interference in last year’s election, and in recent days he and his advisers have privately courted several prominent attorneys to join the effort. By Monday, a list of finalists for the legal team had emerged, according to four people briefed on the discussions."

Source:
MADE REQUESTS TO COATS, ROGERS
Trump Asked Intel Chiefs to Push Back Against FBI Probe
23 hours ago
THE LATEST

"President Trump asked two of the nation’s top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, according to current and former officials. Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login