The prime contractor for the canceled Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) sought and received a federal judge’s help Tuesday in ensuring that the rapidly downsizing company retains control of proprietary information at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.
MOX Services has been shedding jobs since the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) in October terminated the two-decade-old contract to build the plutonium-disposal plant at the Department of Energy facility near the city of Aiken. The company has since laid off around 1,000 of its 1,500 employees.
U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Thomas Wheeler approved a protective order requesed by MOX Services requiring that not fewer than 20 company employees “retain all credentials that are necessary to physically access MOX Project areas” at Savannah River.
MOX Services needs a presence at the site to “retain administrative control rights and full authority to grant access rights to the MOXnet, which encompasses various business systems, applications and documents created and maintained by Plaintiff to perform the contract,” according to the order.
The MFFF was designed to turn 34 metric tons of surplus weapon-usable plutonium into fuel for commercial nuclear reactors. In 2015, the NNSA decided the facility was too expensive and asked Congress to authorize another means of eliminating the plutonium, which the U.S. agreed to deweaponize under a 2000 arms-control pact with Russia.
MOX Services, claiming DOE and the NNSA caused the cost-overruns used to justify the MFFF cancellation, sued its customer in 2016. The company seeks some $200 million in damages and withheld fees.
MOX Services has been protective about its proprietary information in the case. In March, the company unsuccessfully fought to prevent private attorneys hired by the NNSA from accessing company information of the sort covered by Tuesday’s order.