MOX contractor passes safety inspection for 2016, faces harsh criticism for lack of transparency and efficiency

NEW ELLENTON, S.C. (WJBF)- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission released its annual assessment of MOX’s safety last month. Tuesday evening, they hosted an open house where reps were available to take questions from the public.

Their report found the project’s safety is up to code. But many questions still surround the viability of the project, which is years past deadline and billions over budget.

Decades after the end of the Cold War, the U.S. is still trying to cut down on its nuclear weapons. That’s where MOX comes in.

“There were maybe 30,000 nuclear weapons during the height of the Cold War, now there’s on the order of 5,000,” said Tom Clements, the director of SRS Watch. “And the number’s supposed to go down. There’s a large stockpile of this nuclear material, plutonium, which has some bad impacts if it gets into the environments or into the human body, but we need to manage it and dispose of it.”

Tom Clements is a critic of the MOX project.

“I’ve been monitoring the MOX project sine 1994 when it was conceived of by the National Academy of Sciences,” he said.

The U.S. could have disposed of the weapons-grade plutonium as nuclear waste, which is what Clements supports, or convert it to nuclear fuel.

“It’s basically an experimental fuel because weapon-grade plutonium is not been used before,” he said. “But they’re constructing this facility to make these little fuel pellets to go into commercial reactors. But there are no reactors that want to use the stuff.”

The project was originally scheduled for completion last year at an estimated cost of $1 billion, but is now expected to cost $30 billion and be complete in the 2040s, according to the Department of Energy.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the project’s contractor met safety standards for last year.

“What we’re here to say tonight is that through 2016, which is the performance period that we’re talking about, the MOX facility met all of our regulatory objectives,” said Joey Ledford, a Public Affairs Officer with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “They operated the construction program in a safe way that protected the people and the environment.”

But the DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration gave the same contractor a scathing report, saying its claims that more than 70 percent of the construction is complete is a “patently false.”

The NNSA estimates progress to be around 30 percent.

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