S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham are expected to sit down with President Donald Trump at the White House next week to lay out why a halfway-built nuclear fuel facility should be saved at the Savannah River Site near Aiken.
The state’s Attorney General Alan Wilson also will be at the meeting, his office said.
Closing the so-called mixed-oxide fuel facility could cause several hundred employees to lose their jobs after a court decision Tuesday that notified the U.S. Department of Energy it can move forward with plans to close the multi-billion dollar facility.
At one point, the plant, touted as an avenue to remove U.S. weapons-grade plutonium and provide jobs as part of an arms-control agreement with Russia, was forecast to employ as many as 2,000 workers.
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In Columbia on Saturday, Graham called the federal government’s choice to shutter the MOX project a “stupid decision.”
“Who in the world gets a program halfway built and says, ‘Ah, let’s start over and do something else?’” said Graham, ahead of meeting with the Richland and Lexington Republican parties. “Somebody should be fired.”
Graham said he will meet with Trump next week to discuss the project’s future, along with Wilson, who is leading the state’s lawsuit to block the facility’s closing. McMaster’s spokesman Brian Symmes confirmed the same. A meeting date was not provided.
But, so far, Graham, McMaster and other S.C. officials have been unable to sway Trump, or U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, to keep the project open.
The government already has spent billions of dollars on the facility, recently projected to cost at least $17 billion to complete.
Federal officials have wanted to abandon the project — construction started in 2007 — beginning under the Obama administration, which grew frustrated with the project’s growing cost and schedule delays.
Supporters of closing MOX say the weapons-grade material should be moved out to another facility in New Mexico. Officials and residents there, however, have balked at that suggestion.
“They (the federal government) are putting on the table an alternative that’s never gonna work,” Graham said Saturday, adding if the project is abandoned, the Trump administration owes it to S.C. residents to get the material out of the Palmetto State.
“You thought (the U.S. Supreme Court hearings on Brett) Kavanaugh was a fight?” Graham said. “Ain’t seen nothing yet over this.”