SAVANNAH RIVER SITE, S.C. (AP) — Federal legislators have secured enough money to make sure a nuclear fuel project at the Savannah River Site goes forward, according to South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and members of the state's congressional delegation.
But the governmental leaders also told news reporters during a meeting with U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz they want to ensure that the state doesn't become a permanent home for the world's nuclear trash.
Last fall, Haley invited Moniz to visit the Savannah River Site, a sprawling complex along the South Carolina-Georgia border. The 310-square mile site once produced components for nuclear weapons, but its primary focus now is on repurposing and cleanup.
Construction began in 2007 on the mixed-oxide fuel plant, known as MOX, which is part of an agreement with Russia to turn nuclear weapons into reactor fuel. The project is currently billions of dollars over budget and experienced yearslong delays.
The Obama administration had said it wanted to put the project on hold, saying it was becoming too expensive and suggesting that another method be found to dispose of the plutonium, in order to uphold the agreement with Russia. South Carolina sued, saying money set aside to build the plant couldn't be used to shut it down, and the administration has committed to continuing construction into the fall, when the current fiscal year ends.
On Monday, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott said that congressional budgets have the money to keep the mixed oxide fuel project from being suspended, at least in the next fiscal year.
"It won't go to cold standby as far as we can tell," Scott said, saying that a House proposal already includes money to keep the project open, while a continuing resolution that will likely be hashed out in the Senate will have the funding, too.
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