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Nuclear Waste: Cost of South Carolina fuel plant goes up by billions of dollars — again via The Center for Public Integrity

The MOX plant may cost another $30 billion to complete and operate, and federal officials are newly wary

A confidential study by the Energy Department has concluded that completing a controversial nuclear fuel factory in South Carolina may cost billions of dollars more than the department has previously promised, according to government officials and industry sources briefed on its results.

The study, conducted for Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, also found that finishing and then operating the factory to help get rid of Cold War-era plutonium as part of a nonproliferation arrangement with Russia would likely cost a total of $25 billion to $30 billion on top of the $4 billion spent on its construction so far, the sources said.

That amount is so high, the officials said, that the Obama administration is leaning towards embracing what one described as “some other option” for dealing with the 34 tons of weapons plutonium that the so-called Mixed Oxide (MOX) nuclear fuel plant at Savannah River was supposed to help eliminate.

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But senior administration officials have said they would support the completion and operation of the MOX plant only if its construction costs could be substantially reduced. Without new savings, a government official and an industry official said the new report suggests, construction costs alone could reach $10 billion, or nearly ten times the initial estimate and more than $2 billion higher than the department’s most recent public tally.

As a result, the department has engaged in protracted, private negotiations with Shaw Areva MOX Services, the French- and Dutch-owned consortium responsible for building and running the plant, to revise the contract in a way that would limit the company’s profits and boost its responsibility for cost overruns.

“Areva should know that if it makes mistakes, it should suffer the consequences,” one government critic of the program said, noting past construction problems that have boosted the project’s costs. But the negotiations have so far stalemated, with the company refusing to accept DOE’s demands, government and industry sources said. That’s why the administration is now moving to embrace other solutions in the coming year, they said.

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