Nikki Haley Sues Energy Department For $1 Million A Day Over Nuclear Waste

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Republican South Carolina Gov. Nikki Ha­ley outlined a lawsuit against the Department of Energy (DOE) Tuesday for $1 million in daily fines after the agency failed to meet a Jan. 1 legal deadline to complete a program which was supposed to turn nuclear waste into fuel.

“DOE not only ignores the $1 million per day fine rightfully and statutorily due to South Carolina, it outlines its plans to send additional plutonium to the Savannah River Site,” Haley wrote in a letter to the DOE obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Please accept this as my formal request that your office initiate litigation on behalf of the State of South Carolina against DOE.”

The mixed-oxide project (MOX) near Savannah was intended to turn weapons-grade plutonium into commercial nuclear reactor fuel to comply with a disarmament agreement signed in 2000 between the U.S. and Russia. The agreement would eliminate enough weapons-grade plutonium to create 17,000 nuclear weapons.

The Department of Energy is legally required to pay up $100 million in annual fines to the state until the MOX facility is constructed or the plutonium is removed. Haley warned Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz in December the state would sue the agency if it didn’t start making payments by Jan 1.

Construction of the MOX facility is several years behind the official schedule and is currently estimated to cost $12 to $14 billion, of which $4.8 billion has already been spent. The original cost estimate was $1 billion. The project is estimated to only be one-third finished.

A DOE report from last year, however, argues burying the weapons-grade plutonium is estimated to be far cheaper and more practical than completing the MOX facility, the Center for Public Integrity reported in August.

South Carolina has previously sued the Department of Energy over MOX, but backed down when the DOE temporarily reactivated the program.

The Department of Energy did not respond to requests for comment by TheDCNF by press time.

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