Federal Judge Temporarily Halts MOX Cancellation

A federal judge in South Carolina has temporarily put a halt to the federal government's plan to back out of the mixed oxide fuel (MOX) project at the Savannah River Site that the Department of Energy recently announced would be shut down.

MOX facilityU.S. District Court Judge Michelle Childs handed down her ruling on Thursday, temporarily disallowing the federal government to back away from the project that is about $12 billion over budget and years behind schedule.

The project is designed to create a facility that would turn weapons-grade plutonium into MOX fuel that can be used at commercial nuclear power plants, a project mandated through an agreement with Russia to dismantle a portion of the nation's nuclear arsenal.

The National Nuclear Security Administration has recommended the facility, instead, be designed to make new plutonium pits for nuclear weapons. The new plan also calls for excess plutonium to be shipped to New Mexico for disposal.

But the state of South Carolina sued on the grounds that the turnaround would make South Carolina a dumping ground for radioactive waste and that it would put displace workers already involved in the MOX project.

The state also complained that Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry did not go over the details of the shutdown with Gov. Henry McMaster before pulling the plug on the project.

Work on the project was to stop on Monday, The State reported. State Attorney General Alan Wilson said the judge's rulling “is based on the rule of law and common sense.” While the ruling is only temporary, Wilson said it was “a victory for the people of South Caroliona and the safety of all South Carolinians.”

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