Pro-MOX injunction signals start of longer legal battle
The preliminary injunction issued Thursday in favor of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility is just the beginning.
The injunction maintains the status quo – ongoing work and construction at MOX – while the state of South Carolina continues its legal offensive against the U.S. Department of Energy.
“Our job was to protect the workers from being forced to leave on Monday,” S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson said Friday, later adding: “This case is involved specifically with the completion of MOX.”
The preliminary injunction now allows the state and the DOE to lay out their respective cases in court without politically attributed MOX fallout in the background, Wilson said.
He likened it to the judge hitting the pause button.
Wilson, who is running for re-election, hopes the court case will be wrapped up by the end of the year. He said the goal is to have things handled quickly. Future court dates are still to be determined, though.
Even though the injunction was approved, a greater win for the state is not a sure thing, the attorney general added.
MOX is a roughly 70 percent complete facility located at the Savannah River Site. MOX is designed to turn weapons-grade plutonium into fuel for commercial reactors. The DOE has rejected MOX in favor of dilute-and-dispose, another disposition method that involves mixing plutonium with inert material for burial in New Mexico.
A full stop work order at MOX was expected to land June 11. Had it taken effect, 600 to 900 jobs would have been in jeopardy, according to an email exchange between project and energy officials.
And that would have been just the first wave.
Judge J. Michelle Childs prevented the potential job loss by granting the preliminary injunction. Childs said the preliminary injunction was a matter of public interest, among other things.
Wilson filed for the injunction on May 25. He briefly discussed the litigation during a press conference in Aiken that same day.
Childs’ ruling vacated a May 14 partial stop work order at MOX and enjoined U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry’s MOX-terminating waiver, which was submitted to Congress May 10 and certified MOX was roughly twice the price of dilute-and-dispose in the long run.
The state of South Carolina was required to pay a $100 bond by Friday afternoon, as well, according to Childs’ ruling.
By Friday, Wilson said he had briefed U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson and S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster, all South Carolina Republicans, on the injunction and what it means going forward.
Federal funding for MOX and the attorney general’s lawsuit are two completely separate things. Alan Wilson said he is counting on South Carolina’s congressional delegation to pull through and secure MOX project money.