Skip to Main Content

MOX Costs Spiral Further Out of Control

Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility

The Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility in South Carolina.

Our Tabke Box

As government agencies across the spectrum struggle with even tighter budgets and forced cuts, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has revealed in a new report that the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication (MOX) Facility at the Savannah River Site has yet again dramatically increased in cost, bringing the current price tag up to $7.7 billion. This new price tag is $700 million more than the GAO reported just last month.

The MOX facility has been cause for concern for years. It was designed to convert weapons-grade plutonium into mixed oxide fuel for use in nuclear energy reactors. The facility was expected to cost $1.6 billion and be operational in three years. Today the program is ten years behind schedule and $6 billion over budget—an increase of 381 percent. But even $7.7 billion won’t be the total cost to the taxpayer if the Department of Energy (DOE) decides to continue pursuing the MOX mission.

A week ago, a local Savannah River Site expert and the Southeastern nuclear campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth, Tom Clements, calculated a life-cycle cost estimate for the MOX program. Neither DOE nor the National Nuclear Security Administration has released an updated official performance or cost baseline for the project since 2008. Thus, Clements has developed his own estimate incorporating not only the construction costs for the facility but also:

a host of other expenses, including administrative buildings and administrative costs, yearly MOX plant operating costs, MOX plant start-up costs, plutonium feedstock preparation, a facility to treat MOX waste (Waste Solidification Building) and waste disposal costs, payment to utilities to use MOX fuel in their nuclear reactors and decommissioning of facilities.

This unofficial estimate puts the whole price tag for the MOX facility at just about $22.11 billion. Though this is not an official number, Clements’ work is exhaustive and he requests, as does POGO, that the DOE and NNSA respond with their own life-cycle cost estimate.

The 381 percent cost increase as well as the $22.11 billion life-cycle cost estimate is all for a facility that doesn’t have even a single customer.

The project’s contractor, Shaw AREVA MOX Services, lost its contract with Duke Energy in 2008. Since then it has not been able to find another nuclear power company interested in purchasing the fuel that would be produced at the facility. Furthermore, the use of the fuel in certain reactors will still require years of safety testing, particularly in light of concerns raised about the use of MOX fuel in the boiling water reactor at Fukushima Daiichi.

Now is the time to cut funding to this nuclear bridge to nowhere. The adjacent photo shows quite clearly that the roof of the facility is finally complete. There has never been a better time to halt the MOX project and reassess its mission. In February, POGO learned of a plan to cut funding to MOX by 75 percent, though over a billion dollars would still be allocated over the next five years to finish construction and explore alternative means of plutonium disposition. Now that the cost has increased yet again and the roof is finished, it’s time for funding to MOX to be cut 100 percent.

Despite what some Members of Congress say, continuing to fund this multi-billion-dollar boondoggle is unacceptable. It’s time to close the door on MOX and look into alternative plutonium disposition plans.

Image by High Flyer, Provided by Friends of the Earth.

By: Lydia Dennett
Investigator, POGO

lydia dennett Lydia Dennett is an investigator for the Project On Government Oversight. Lydia handles whistleblower intake and works on nuclear safety and security at the U.S. nuclear weapons complex.

Topics: National Security

Related Content: Nuclear Weapons Complex Oversight, Waste

Authors: Lydia Dennett

Submitted by Moneygone at: April 11, 2013
1. Thank you for this well-written article. 2. Is there a true accounting of where the money is actually going? How much money is going to France's AREVA? Maybe there needs to be Senate hearings on where the money is going or an audit? Isn't Sen. Lindsay Graham a huge supporter of this MOX plant? 3. It was interesting that during the Senate hearings for Ernest Moniz (to be the new head of the Department of Energy), Ernest Moniz said MOX fuel was part of an agreement with Russia where both the U.S. and Russia had to find a way to get rid of plutonium. The two choices were either MOX or vitrification. I read that vitrification only lasts a few decades and MOX sounds dangerous. 4. Unit 3 in Fukushima that nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen believes "detonated" had MOX fuel in it. Plutonium from Fukushima was found all the way in Lithuania! 5. Highly recommend you read the comments on www.enenews.com too. Lots of discussion there on MOX and more.
Submitted by Andre at: April 10, 2013
Thanks for the comment Scott. The caption has been fixed.
Submitted by Scott at: April 10, 2013
Good article, but the caption to the photo states that the MOX facility is in North Carolina. Incorrect. The Savannah River Site is in South Carolina.
Submitted by bestpal2b at: April 9, 2013
This is a real bridge to no where. How do I keep informed of what is going on and who in congress is making money off this fraudulant use of tax payer funds?

Leave A Comment

Nickname
Comment
Enter this word: Change

Related Posts

Browse POGOBlog by Topic

POGO on Facebook

POGOBlog Contributors

See All Blog Contributors

Latest Podcast

Podcast; Social Media, Internet Provides Opportunities, Challenges for Lawmakers

The Congressional Management Foundation offers the Gold Mouse Awards annually to members of Congress who make the most of the opportunity the digital world offers them. POGO spoke with members of Rep. Mike Honda's communications team about their award.