The final price tag of a mixed-oxide nuclear fuel facility being built in South Carolina may be as high as $30 billion, an unreleased U.S. study concludes.
Unidentified government officials and industry insiders who were briefed on the Energy Department study’s findings told the Center for Public Integrity the projected cost growth for the mixed-oxide fuel fabrication plant has led the Obama administration to favor pursuing alternatives for disposing of the 34 tons of weapons-grade plutonium that the Savannah River site was intended to handle.
The probable final expense of the controversial MOX plant would likely be between $25 billion and $30 billion, sources said in the Friday article.
Numerous officials are starting to think that “it’s time for a shifting of gears,” said an administration official.
However, because no other fully developed option has emerged for dealing with the Russian-origin plutonium, the Obama administration will probably seek fiscal 2015 funds to continue building the mixed-oxide plant. Officials said the sought-after funding likely will be less than the roughly $343 million assigned for the project in the current fiscal year. A total of $4 billion has already been spent on construction.
The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration, which is overseeing construction of the fuel-fabrication plant, declined to comment on the report.
The Energy Department reportedly is involved in drawn-out secret negotiations with Shaw Areva MOX Services, which is in charge of constructing and operating the plant. The department’s goal is to modify the contract with the European consortium so that company profits are lowered and more of the burden of cost overruns is shifted onto Shaw Areva’s shoulders.
However, talks are at an impasse, so the government is now examining alternatives for disposing of the surplus plutonium, sources told the center.
Russian officials have suggested in private diplomatic discussions that they would be open to a plan that converts the plutonium metal into a more proliferation-resistant powder form, which could then be entombed deep underground, an official said. Such a plan could take half a decade to complete and cost $6 billion, an unnamed source projected in the article.
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As the Russia investigation heats up, "the role of Marc E. Kasowitz, the president’s longtime New York lawyer, will be significantly reduced. Mr. Trump liked Mr. Kasowitz’s blunt, aggressive style, but he was not a natural fit in the delicate, politically charged criminal investigation. The veteran Washington defense lawyer John Dowd will take the lead in representing Mr. Trump for the Russia inquiry."
President Trump's attorneys are "actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work." They plan to argued that Mueller is going outside the scope of his investigation, in inquiring into Trump's finances. They're also playing small ball, highlighting "donations to Democrats by some of" Mueller's team, and "an allegation that Mueller and Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia had a dispute over membership fees when Mueller resigned as a member in 2011." Trump is said to be incensed that Mueller may see his tax returns, and has been asking about his power to pardon his family members.
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."
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is "is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates", including "Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008."