The Trump administration is axing a program to recycle plutonium from Cold War nuclear bombs into electricity, Reuters reported Sunday.
Continuing with the program is too costly, according to an administration document to Congress reviewed by Reuters. The Department of Energy (DOE) has spent $7.6 billion on a plan to build a Mixed Oxide (MOX) plant in South Carolina to turn the plutonium into useable fuel. Finishing the project would cost about $48 billion more. (RELATED: South Carolina Sues DOE For Using State As ‘Dumping Ground’ For Weapons Grade Materials)
Instead, the administration wants to bury the 8,000 bombs worth of plutonium at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico, neutralizing the weapons-grade substance through the process of “dilute and dispose.” The plan would cost just shy of $20 billion. Congress gave the DOE leeway to find a solution to the old plutonium in February, passing legislation that allows the department to bury the radioactive substance if it could be done for half the cost of finishing the MOX plant or cheaper.
South Carolina’s senators and two representatives have criticized the DOE’s plan to abandon the MOX plant. Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott joined Republican Reps. Jeff Duncan and Joe Wilson in a statement Thursday.
“We are extremely disappointed to hear the Department of Energy plans to abandon the MOX program,” the group wrote. “For years, DOE studied the best method to dispose of plutonium. After looking at over 40 options, the MOX process was chosen over other alternatives and was the method agreed to with the Russians in the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement.”
The lawmakers pointed out that the MOX plant is currently more than halfway finished. Construction on the plant began roughly a decade ago, South Carolina’s Aiken Standard reported.
The decision to disarm the plutonium came from a now-dead agreement between the U.S. and Russia for each to lower their stores of nuclear material.
Under the DOE plan, the MOX plant would be modified to produce plutonium pits, or nuclear weapon cores.
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