AIKEN, SC — Six South Carolina congressmen have signed their names to a letter that urges President Barack Obama to financially back the MOX project at the Savannah River Site.
S.C. Reps. Jeff Duncan, James Clyburn, Trey Gowdy, Mick Mulvaney, Tom Rice and Joe Wilson all signed the letter, which comes after much speculation regarding the future funding of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility under construction at SRS near Aiken.
“Recently, it has come to our attention that concerns have been raised regarding the MOX Project and its future under potential sequestration and budget cuts,” the letter reads. “We are writing you today to reiterate the importance of the MOX project and its mission.”
The plant is being built as part of an agreement with Russia for disposing nuclear-grade plutonium.
Shaw Areva MOX Services have been contracted to process 34 tons of weapons grade plutonium, mix it with uranium oxide to make mixed oxide pellets and turn them into fuel assemblies to power nuclear reactors.
Once irradiated at nuclear power plants, the plutonium would be in a form less usable for nuclear weapons.
The Congressmen are not alone in their fight for MOX to be funded.
“Sen. Graham would have serious issues with a decision to suspend MOX,” said Kevin D. Bishop, communications director for Sen. Lindsey Graham.
“It is our opinion that a failure to complete the MOX facility will lead to a world with more weapons-grade plutonium than necessary – creating additional and unnecessary risk that such material will be stolen or diverted to malicious purposes,” the Congressmen's letter reads.
Since its inception, the MOX project has been attacked for its cost – once described as the largest capital project in the United States. Most recently, Congressman Edward Markey, D-Mass., attacked the MOX project as a “disaster.”
Halting MOX construction would also have international consequences. The project emerged as part of a non-proliferation agreement with the Russian Federation in 2000. The United States and Russia agreed to each dispose of 34 metric tons of surplus military-grade plutonium by recycling it as fuel for civil nuclear applications.
“The project turns ‘bombs into energy' and is the means by which the United States will honor our agreement with Russia by disposing of weapons-grade plutonium,” Wilson said.