For Immediate Release: June 6, 2012
Contact: Katherine Fuchs, Program Director email@example.com, 414-324-4228
Tom Clements, Nonproliferation Policy Director firstname.lastname@example.org 803-834-3084
Today, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed an amendment offered by Rep. Fortenberry (R-NE). Members of the House from both sides of the aisle spoke in favor of Rep. Fortenberry’s amendment, which moved $17 million from the Mixed Oxide Plutonium Fuel (MOX) Program to the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI). The amendment, which passed with a vote of 328 to 89, was offered during discussion of appropriations for Department of Energy funding.
The passage of the amendment is a clear indication that congressional oversight of the MOX program is increasing. The amendment comes on the heels of an earlier cut of $152 million from the MOX program by the House Appropriations Committee.
The Global Threat Reduction Initiative is the front line of defense in our nation’s fight to prevent nuclear bomb materials from falling into the hands of terrorists. Rep. Fortenberry’s amendment brings funding for this critical program up to the President’s requested level.
The MOX program is intended to make 34 metric tons of weapons grade plutonium inaccessible for use in a weapon by blending plutonium from dismantled nuclear weapons with depleted uranium for use in commercial nuclear reactor fuel. The MOX program has been plagued by technical, financial, and scheduling problems and no utilities have contracted to use the MOX plutonium fuel.
The Report that accompanies the House Energy and Water Appropriations bill amended this afternoon expresses the committee’s concerns about the program:
There is still no fidelity on the total project costs and timeline to get the MOX facility up and running, and few details have been provided on the long term investments that will be needed to support full operating feedstock requirements.... The Department [of Energy] is now reporting internally that the total project costs could be understated by as much as $600,000,000 to $900,000,000, and that the project will overrun its projected completion date by months if not years. Further, the updated cost estimates provided by the NNSA for the projected annual operating costs of the MOX facility have skyrocketed and are now 2.5 times the projections of just two years ago.
“The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability welcomes Congressional oversight of the MOX program’s out of control costs, said Alliance for Nuclear Accountability Program Director Katherine Fuchs. We are excited that the House has chosen to support the effective GTRI program which directly supports our most urgent national security concerns.”
Speaking for his amendment, Rep. Fortenberry said “We should be proud of our work as a country in our nuclear security efforts, but it is abundantly clear that the mixed oxide fuel program is not the most productive use of our constituents' taxpayer dollars. The persistence of nuclear threats demands that we retain the highest sense of vigilance and agility when it comes to our own nuclear security”
The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability is a national network of 35 organizations working to address issues of nuclear weapons production and waste cleanup.