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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In addition to ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller's team is also "examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort."
"The House voted Thursday to reauthorize the Department of Homeland Security. The bipartisan measure passed easily by a vote of 386-41, with nine Republicans and 32 Democrats voting in opposition. If the bill makes it through the Senate, it would be the first-ever reauthorization of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) since it was created in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks." Among the provisions it contains is a mandate that the Senate confirm the Secret Service director. It also boosts funding for the Urban Area Security Initiative by $195 million per year.
In remarks scheduled to be delivered today at the American Federation of Teachers' summer conference, President Randi Weingarten "likens U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to a climate-change denier" and "says the Trump administration's school choice plans are secretly intended to starve funding from public schools. She calls taxpayer-funded private school vouchers, tuition tax credits and the like 'only slightly more polite cousins of segregation.'" The pro-voucher Center for Education Reform said teachers should "consider inviting Weingarten’s resignation."
"President Trump has confidence in Attorney General Jeff Sessions, despite his criticism of the Justice Department head's decision to recuse himself from the Russia probe, the White House said Thursday. 'Clearly he has confidence in him or he would not be the attorney general,' spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters at an off-camera briefing."
"The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the Trump administration for records on an executive order President Trump reportedly planned to release targeting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. In a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Thursday, ACLU claimed the departments of Health and Human Services, Justice, Labor, and Treasury violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to release the records it requested on the reported draft order."