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.
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In a unanimous decision, "the Supreme Court on Tuesday said it violates insider-trading laws for a corporate officer to make a “gift” of insider information to a relative, a decision that makes it easier for those who police Wall Street to bring prosecutions."
House Speaker Paul Ryan has decreed that House members "won’t receive their committee assignments until January — after they cast a public vote on the House floor for speaker. "The move has sparked behind-the-scenes grumbling from a handful of Ryan critics, who say the delay allows him and the Speaker-aligned Steering Committee to dole out committee assignments based on political loyalty rather than merit or expertise." The roll call to elect the speaker is set for Jan. 3, the first vote of the new Congress.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters on Monday that the government funding bill will be released on Tuesday. The bill is the last piece of legislation Congress needs to pass before leaving for the year and is expected to fund the government through the spring. The exact time date the bill would fund the government through is unclear, though it is expected to be in April or May.
As has been rumored for a week, Donald Trump will nominate Ben Carson, his former rival, to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development. In a statement, Trump said, "We have talked at length about my urban renewal agenda and our message of economic revival, very much including our inner cities. Ben shares my optimism about the future of our country and is part of ensuring that this is a Presidency representing all Americans. He is a tough competitor and never gives up."