South Carolina, Georgia congressmen formally invite Rick Perry to SRS, ask him to support MOX

April 19, 2017

South Carolina members of Congress have extended newly confirmed Energy Secretary Rick Perry an invitation to the Savannah River Site near Aiken, and are asking for his support of the MOX project.

The state’s Congressional delegation, including U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., along with Georgia congressmen, penned a letter to Perry earlier this month, inviting him to visit the site “at your earliest convenience.”

Perry was confirmed as DOE director in early March. The former Texas governor holds the position previously held by former President Barack Obama appointee, Ernest Moniz.

The letter dated April 6 is signed by Wilson, U.S. Reps. Jeff Duncan, Trey Gowdy, Tom Rice – all South Carolina Republicans – and U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C.

Republican Georgia U.S. Reps. Rick Allen, Jody Hice, Barry Loudermilk, Austin Scott and Drew Ferguson also signed onto the letter.

In the letter, representatives write SRS has been “one of the primary economic engines of the CSRA,” providing more than 10,000 “high paying jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue for the surrounding communities.”

“Like many sites throughout the nuclear weapons complex, SRS faces many challenges,” the letter continues. “Whether it be budgetary uncertainty, project delays, or an aging infrastructure and workforce, every mission at the site will require your steadfast attention and support in order to reach its full potential. We look forward to working with you to address these concerns.”

It states the congressmen are pleased at the success of waste mission but “much work remains to be done” for the remediation of liquid waste stored at SRS. It says this will require for the continued maintenance and operation of the Defense Waste Processing Facility and “seamless integration” of the Salt Waste Processing Facility.

The congressmen’s letter goes on to say it will also require the construction of salt stone disposal units “to ensure the SWPF is able to operate at its full capacity throughout its lifetime,” while also calling on the DOE to make progress toward a permanent repository.

“We encourage you to to continue to weigh the technical merits as well as the work that has already been done at the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada as you consider the most expeditious operation for removing waste from the area,” the congressmen wrote.

The letter ends with an appeal for Perry to the support of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility, or MOX, at the Savannah River Site in Aiken County.

The MOX project is a part of federal government’s 2000 agreement with Russia to reduce nuclear stockpiles.

Construction of MOX began more than a decade ago in 2006, according to the letter, which states National Security Administrator Frank Klotz testified the project was “more than halfway complete and recent estimates from the contractor indicate 70 percent physical completion.”

The 70 percent completion number has been disputed by DOE officials, according to previous Aiken Standard reports.

The Obama administration’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget proposal called for the termination of the MOX project and said around $270 million would be allocated to begin shutting down the SRS facility.

The plan proposed using a downblending method – the administration believed to be cheaper and faster – would dilute plutonium and dispose of it at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or WIPP, in Carlsbad, New Mexico.

The congressmen’s letter to Perry says the previous administration’s “lack of commitment to the MOX project and its experiment with potential alternatives came with real consequences – including Russia’s suspension of the underlying plutonium agreement and a lawsuit seeking significant monetary damages” filed by the state against DOE.

“Despite congressional direction to continue construction of the MOX project, progress has been slowed by an unsteady DOE – and the mission to dispose of excess weapons plutonium has suffered,” they wrote. “With your support, MOX can deliver on our government’s obligations both internationally and at home.”

The newspaper has reached out to the DOE but did not hear back as of press time Tuesday.