The Political Battle Over a Half-Built Nuclear Plant in South Carolina

Included among a budget proposal that likely won't go anywhere, the Obama Administration is recommending the end of a project that would create nuclear power by dismantling nuclear weapons.

February 10, 2016, 1:00 PM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


"Time may finally be running out on the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility, a multibillion-dollar, over-budget federal project that has been hard to kill," reports James Risen. The headline of the story offers a translation of the jargon: A half-built nuclear plant might be too expensive to finish.

"The Energy Department has already spent about $4.5 billion on the half-built plant near Aiken, S.C., designed to make commercial reactor fuel out of plutonium from nuclear bombs," adds Risen. "New estimates place the ultimate cost of the facility at between $9.4 billion and $21 billion, and the outlay for the overall program, including related costs, could go as high as $30 billion."

Those costs, and an estimate that the project could be in operation by 2040, means that the Energy Department recommended abandoning the project in the federal budget released by the Obama Administration this week.

Meanwhile, state officials and members of the South Carolina congressional delegation, some of whom are also "the Republican Party's most determined opponents of government spending," have vowed to complete the project. The article includes a lot more back and forth between opponents and proponents of the project. The implications of the story reach out to Carlsbad, New Mexico, where an alternative approach to disposing of nuclear weapons would store the waste deep underground in salt formations. 

Monday, February 8, 2016 in The New York Times

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This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

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