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U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson remains hopeful MOX project can be saved

By Colin Demarest cdemarest@aikenstandard.comJanuary 11, 2019

Despite contract termination and repeated rounds of layoffs, U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson on Monday said he is “not going to give up” on the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site.

The S.C. Republican believes the MOX project – canceled in full by the National Nuclear Security Administration – is still salvageable.

Wilson, who held a press conference at the Aiken County Government Center, said the “assertiveness” of U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and the “close connections” of S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster could be the project’s saving grace.

“We will continue every effort to point out that the MOX facility is almost 70 percent complete,” Wilson said, later adding: “I will always be working on this.”

Members of the South Carolina congressional delegation have long defended the venture’s purpose and completeness. Graham has previously described MOX termination as a “colossal mistake.”

MOX, which was over-budget and more than a decade in the making, was designed to turn 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium into nuclear fuel.

Wilson on Monday said the MOX process remains the optimal path for that surplus plutonium.

The MOX project was the product of a denuclearization pact between the U.S. and Russia. Wilson said the concord – the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement, which has been more or less suspended – remains significant.

More than 1,100 MOX workers have received layoff notices as of early January. Wilson’s comments came four days after the third round of layoffs at MOX.

“Over and over again, it’s been very sad to me to see how this has proceeded,” Wilson said. The longtime congressman did not shy away from criticizing the DOE’s decision making.

The fourth and final round of project-related layoffs will be made at the end of January, according to internal documents obtained by the Aiken Standard.

Wilson represents South Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District. SRS, a 310 square-mile nuclear complex, is located south of Aiken.

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