U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz will join Gov. Nikki Haley, Sen. Lindsey Graham, and others in a tour of several nuclear facilities Monday that could be affected by budget cuts during this upcoming year.
The Energy Secretary will be making his first official visit to the Savannah River Site in Aiken County since taking the Cabinet post last year. The tour will include a visit to the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MOX) at the site. The MOX project is supposed to eventually convert weapons-grade plutonium into nuclear reactor fuel, but the project is over-budget and years behind schedule.
The White House, acting on concerns by both budget watchdogs and anti-nuclear groups, moved to place the project on cold-standby for a year. The move would halt construction as the Energy Department considers alternative ways to dispose of the plutonium.
South Carolina officials sued, worried about the loss of roughly 1,800 jobs at the site. The lawsuit argued the Energy Department lacked the authority to shift the project’s status without congressional approval. Graham said the lawsuit was dropped in May after Moniz promised construction would continue through the end of the fiscal year in September.
Haley’s spokesman Doug Mayer told the Aiken Standard that the governor looks forward to welcoming Moniz to South Carolina so they can resume the conversations they have had concerning the federal government’s “failure to remove nuclear waste from our state.”