A new watchdog group formed on Wednesday with plans to place tough scrutiny on a “problem-plagued” effort to turn bomb plutonium into electricity.
Activists said a key focus for their new organization would be lobbying for alternative methods of eliminating 34 tons of plutonium under an agreement with Russia. Their announcement came in the thick of a fight over an Obama administration bid to suspend work on the project, which is intended to convert the weapon material into mixed-oxide power plant fuel at South Carolina’s Savannah River Site.
“Our job will be to highlight to SRS programs that warrant public attention and involvement,” said Tom Clements, the new director of Savannah River Site Watch. He said the group would focus on gleaning “possible lessons to be learned” from the troubled mixed-oxide project, as well as backing proposals for other “plutonium disposition methods that reduce environmental risks to South Carolina and reduce costs to taxpayers.”
“It is the Department of Energy’s nature to operate outside public scrutiny,” he added in the group’s first news release.
An undisclosed Energy study reportedly concluded that the so-called “MOX” Fuel Fabrication Facility likely would cost between $25 billion and $30 billion to complete. Planning and construction efforts have cost $4 billion to date.
Frances Close, president of Savannah River Site Watch, said the new organization would consider a variety of additional “environmental problems and proliferation threats” associated with the South Carolina complex.
“We will follow and participate in all decision-making processes related to SRS cleanup programs as well as [the] National Nuclear Security Administration’s [other] projects” at the 310-square-mile facility, she said in Wednesday’s statement.
What We're Following See More »
"The U.S. Air Force is preparing to put nuclear-armed bombers back on 24-hour ready alert, a status not seen since the Cold War ended in 1991...Putting the B-52s back on alert is just one of many decisions facing the Air Force as the U.S. military responds to a changing geopolitical environment that includes North Korea’s rapidly advancing nuclear arsenal, President Trump’s confrontational approach to Pyongyang, and Russia’s increasingly potent and active armed forces."
"Senate Democrats on Thursday failed in their first attempt to save the state and local tax deduction, which helps many residents of California and other high-cost states reduce their federal income tax bills. The Republican-controlled Senate voted 52-47 to reject an amendment that would have prevented the Senate from considering any bill that repeals or limits the deduction as part of a planned tax overhaul."
"President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski appeared on Capitol Hill for a closed-door interview with the Senate intelligence committee Wednesday, according to a source familiar with the matter. Lewandowski is the latest senior official in Trump's orbit who has met with the committee as part of its investigation into Russian election meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign."
"A growing number of key Republicans are sending this message to the leaders of the congressional committees investigating potential Trump campaign collusion with the Russians: Wrap it up soon. In the House and Senate, several Republicans who sit on key committees are starting to grumble that the investigations have spanned the better part of the past nine months, contending that the Democratic push to extend the investigation well into next year could amount to a fishing expedition."