Trump administration opposes House measure funding MOX nuclear facility

26 July 2017
A MOX nuclear fuel assembly is shown here, held by a crane during the manufacturing process. Source: Areva, Eric Larrayadieu

Key Points

  • The White House 'strongly opposes' a House effort to continue funding the MOX plutonium disposition programme
  • House and Senate appropriators are at odds over funding the controversial facility

The White House is backing a US Department of Energy (DoE) request, once again, for Congress to terminate a multi-billion-dollar project aimed at disposing weapon-grade plutonium, the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF).

MFFF has suffered significant cost and schedule issues but is strongly supported by South Carolina's congressional delegation and there are few easy options to replace the facility. It has survived repeated White House and DoE efforts during the Obama administration to curtail or terminate the programme, and last year even survived Russia's suspension of the arms control agreement that underpins the project.

The Trump administration, in its fiscal year 2018 (FY 2018) budget request for the DoE, asked for USD270 million "to terminate the Mixed Oxide [MOX] Fuel Fabrication Facility with an orderly and safe closure of the facility". It also asked for USD9 million in FY 2018 to pursue a 'dilute and dispose' method as an alternative for plutonium disposition. The Obama administration asked for, but did not receive, the same thing last year.

So far, during a tumultuous FY 2018 budget process, Senate appropriators appear to back the White House’s request to end MOX but House appropriators want the programme to continue.

In a 24 July ‘statement of administration policy’, the White House said it “strongly objects to continued construction of the Mixed Oxide [MOX] Fuel Fabrication Facility” as directed in the House appropriations bill. That legislation is still being finalised and must be reconciled with the Senate version before being enacted by the president. The White House did not indicate that it would consider a veto.

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