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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Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor and Democratic National Committee chair, announced he's pulling out of the running to regain the chairman's post. Dean "announced in a pre-recorded video to a conference of state Democratic chairs that he would step aside to allow for a new face to lead the party as it seeks to rebuild."
"Once again, businessman and philanthropist David M. Rubenstein has come through for the National Park Service. This time, he's pledged funding needed to modernize the Washington Monument's elevator-- but the monument will remain closed until 2019 while repairs and improvements are underway. Rubenstein's donation of between $2-3 million, announced Friday, will correct those ongoing elevator issues, which have shuttered the monument since August 17."
The National Defense Authorization Act passed the House this morning by a 375-34 vote. The bill, which heads to the Senate next week for final consideration, would fund the military to the tune of $618.7 billion, "about $3.2 billion more than the president requested for fiscal 2017. ... The White House has issued a veto threat on both the House and Senate-passed versions of the bill, but has not yet said if it will sign the compromise bill released by the conference committee this week."
Bill Schuette, Michigan's attorney general, has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the state to halt the recount of the state's voting results. The recount was elected by Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Schuette says the recount shouldn't occur because Stein cited no evidence of voter fraud or tabulation error.
"Republicans have elected Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) the next chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. Walden defeated Reps. John Shimkus (R-IL) and Joe Barton (R-TX), the former committee chairman, in the race for the gavel" to succeed Michgan's Fred Upton.