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Hundreds could initially be laid off from MOX project, official’s email says

June 2, 2018 GMT

A significant swath of Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility employees could be laid off if and when a final stop work order is issued for the project, according to legal testimony and correspondence between project and federal energy officials.

An email sent by Bobby Wilson, president of CB&I Project Services Group, to Robert Raines, the National Nuclear Security Administration’s associate administrator for acquisition and project management, states 600 to 900 employees could face termination upon full work stoppage.

An estimated 500 of those workers would be “craft,” according to Wilson. Craft workers are physical laborers and manual workers involved in MOX construction, for example.

Approximately 100 to 400 “non-manual” employees, out of the grand total, would be affected, Wilson continued in his email.

And that would be just the beginning.

The MOX project employs approximately 2,000 people, a figure that has see-sawed.

Endangered employees would be given 60 days notice of potential termination, as is required by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, a labor law that requires major employers to warn staff of mass layoffs or plant closures.

MOX is a nearly 70 percent complete facility still under construction at the Savannah River Site. MOX was designed to transform weapons-grade plutonium, at least 34 metric tons of it, into commercial reactor fuel. It was initially scheduled to open in 2016; the project is now billions over-budget and under federal fire.

On May 10, U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry submitted a waiver to congressional defense committees that began a 30-day MOX discontinuation clock. That same day, the NNSA and the U.S. Department of Defense issued a joint statement that recommended repurposing MOX for another nuclear weapon mission.

The 30-day period ends June 11, save for weekends.

If a full MOX stop work order is successfully handed down that day, WARN notices will be issued “as soon as possible” that week, according to Wilson’s email, which was sent May 23. All affected employees would be notified no later than the week of June 18, Wilson added.

That places the first wave of layoffs around August 11.

The NNSA issued a partial stop work order for MOX on May 14, which froze the hiring of new employees and halted the start of new construction, among other things.

MOX construction is still continuing, though, according to documents attached to a legal declaration made by Raines.

“NNSA clarified on May 21, 2018, that the partial stop work was only applicable to ‘new construction activities’ not identified in the contractor’s FY18 work execution plan,” the documents, dated May 30, read. “MOX Services is continuing to carry out construction activities pursuant to its execution plan.”

S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson is currently suing the DOE and the NNSA, along with department officials, to preempt MOX closure.