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Trump administration nixes project to generate power from plutonium

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By (Reuters)

Washington – The Trump administration plans to kill a project it says would have cost tens of billions of dollars to convert plutonium from Cold War-era nuclear bombs and burn it to generate electricity, according to a document it sent to Congress last week.

The Department of Energy submitted a document on May 10 to Senate and House of Representative committees saying that the Mixed Oxide (MOX) project at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina would cost about $48 billion more than $7.6 billion already spent on it. The United States has never built a MOX plant.

Instead of completing MOX, the administration, like the Obama administration before it, wants to blend the 34 tonnes of deadly plutonium – enough to make about 8,000 nuclear weapons – with an inert substance and bury it underground in a New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). Burying the plutonium would cost about $19.9 billion, according to the document, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.

“We are currently processing plutonium in South Carolina for shipment (to WIPP) … and intend to continue to do so,” Energy Secretary Rick Perry said in a letter sent to committee leaders.

Legislation passed in February allows the Energy Department to advance burying the plutonium if it showed that the cost would be less than half of completing MOX.

South Carolina politicians, including Senator Lindsey Graham, have defended the MOX plant, saying it is about 70 percent complete, would help keep plutonium out of the hands of militants, and provide up to 600 direct jobs.

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