A federal judge in South Carolina could rule by Friday whether to prohibit the U.S. Department of Energy from issuing a full stop work order at the Savannah River Site’s MOX project, state Attorney General Alan Wilson said Tuesday.
The state is asking U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs for a preliminary injunction to prevent DOE from fully stopping construction of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF). That would give Wilson’s office time to pursue a lawsuit filed last month to keep the project alive.
Lawyers for DOE and Wilson’s office appeared before Childs to make their case on Tuesday, the Augusta, Ga., Chronicle reported.
If the ruling allows DOE to move ahead with its plan to shut down the project, Wilson said hundreds of jobs would be lost, impacting the state economy and local communities around the Savannah River Site. But, according to the Chronicle, DOE attorneys countered that killing MOX would save taxpayers $1.2 million per day in construction costs. They added that even if the department issues a full-stop work order next week, as anticipated, layoffs would not begin for another 60 days.
The department confirmed at the hearing that it expects to issue the stop work order on or around June 11. That would be about a month after Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s May 10 notice that he was terminating the unfinished facility that is intended to convert 34 metric tons of surplus plutonium into commercial nuclear reactor fuel. The plutonium would instead be processed and shipped to New Mexico for disposal, while the MFFF would be repurposed for production of nuclear-warhead cores, or plutonium pits. That notice also included a partial stop work order, which prevented contractor CB&I AREVA MOX Services from hiring new workers or beginning new construction at the MFFF.
The notice prompted Wilson’s lawsuit in which he is asking Childs to order DOE to continue building the MFFF, prevent the agency from stopping work in the future, and require the federal agency to pay attorney fees and associated costs.
Childs did not indicate Tuesday when she would rule on the preliminary injunction request.