PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT
February 9, 2016
By: The 'Honorable' David Hobson, former Republican Congressional Representative from Ohio, 1191-2009, and former Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee.
"Back in 2000, the US and Russia agreed to dispose of 34 metric tons of plutonium.
[34 METRIC TONS!]
The US decided to build a facility to convert the weapons-grade material into fuel for commercial nuclear reactors. The plant, located in South Carolina, was called the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MOX), and was expected to be completed within three years and cost $1.6 billion.
The Department of Energy has sunk $4.5 billion into construction alone and estimates for finishing the job range between $25 billion and a staggering $114 billion.
Not only is the project more than one-thousand percent over cost and years behind schedule, the MOX facility lacks even a single U.S. utility customer for its commercial reactor fuel.
It is the very definition of a boondoggle.
As former Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee, and as a conservative, it was my duty to spend taxpayer dollars on projects that move our country forward.
I worked to advance defense research and development at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and improve management practices at the Department of Energy.
But when I raised concerns about the MOX facility during hearings a dozen years ago and tried to stop the project, I was met with resistance by the Energy Department, the Bush Administration, and many of my fellow Republicans.
They told me canceling the project would hurt then-South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford’s chances of being reelected, and would damage our relations with Russia.
Thirteen years later, everything I was afraid of happening is now unfolding.
The project was never about good policy - just politics.
My biggest regret from my time in Congress is not finding a way to thwart the project.
Beyond the exorbitant price tag, the MOX facility also suffers from alarming safety and security problems, according to watchdog groups like the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) and Taxpayers for Common Sense.
They discovered, for example, that the contractor in charge of the project was granted an exemption from an important security standard before construction of the facility began.
Places like MOX must be able to verify the location of all special nuclear materials within 72 hours. The logic is straightforward: if a terrorist claims to have stolen nuclear material from a facility like MOX, it is essential to be able to verify or disprove such a claim as soon as possible.
Instead of 72 hours, the MOX contractor estimates it could take 180 days (!) to physically verify the presence of all nuclear materials—60 times the safety requirement.
It should be acknowledged that the US can continue to uphold its agreement with Russia without the MOX facility.
The Department of Energy has identified several alternative strategies to dispose of the plutonium that have been independently verified to be more cost effective, timely, and safer.
We also should question the current status of our relationship with Russia, and the progress being made on their side of the plutonium disposal agreement.
Now that my party is in control of both chambers of Congress, we should demonstrate to the American people that we are, in fact, champions of fiscal restraint and willing to cut wasteful spending.
I implore my successors in Congress to put an end to the wasteful MOX facility once and for all."
THAT'S ALL NICE, BUT THE 'HONORABLE' CONGRESSMAN'S INTEGRITY HAS BEEN QUESTIONED BY A SINGLE KNOWN INCIDENT IN 2005
"...On a 2005 trip to visit nuclear-fuel processing plants in France, Hobson and his delegation attended a dinner near Avignon, in southern France, hosted by Areva SA, the world's largest maker of nuclear reactors. The free meals no doubt violated House rules and possibly federal law, experts on congressional ethics say. House rules prohibit members from accepting any gifts worth $50 or more."
[SEE: "On Overseas Trips, Congress's Rules Are Often Ignored", Wall Street Journal, October 27, 2006]
STILL, HIS FACTS ON THE MOX FACILITY ARE CORRECT.
AS RECENTLY AS MAY OF 2015 THE NRC HAD THE AUDACITY TO SAY THAT IT DID NOT NEED PROOF THAT THE MOX FACILITY CAN PROTECT ITSELF AGAINST TERRORIST CYBERATTACK IN ORDER TO ISSUE ITS LICENSE.
"In its April 23 two-to-one decision, NRC commissioners rejected an appeal of a ruling by the agency’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB), which itself was split two to one.
It was the final issue being litigated in a hearing contesting an operating license for the Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility, now under construction at the DOE’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina.
The NRC decision, released publicly on May 7, approved an unorthodox approach proposed by the facility contractor, CB&I AREVA MOX Services (originally Shaw AREVA MOX Services) to track plutonium so plant operators can rapidly detect thefts.
Instead of the traditional approach, where plant personnel would periodically retrieve and inspect cans containing plutonium to verify they are intact and stored properly, MOX Services would rely almost entirely on computer systems and data to provide that assurance. This approach would be particularly vulnerable to cyberattack because it relies excessively on computer systems and de-emphasizes using human observation to verify thefts."
WAY TO GO, NRC, RIGHT?
WHO CARES IF AMERICANS ARE IN DANGER, JUST LICENSE EVERYTHING!
EVEN DURING INITIAL CONSTRUCTION, THE MOX FUEL FABRICATION FACILITY WAS CITED FOR SAFETY VIOLATIONS.
AUG. 23, 2010"This was not MOX's first violation. In 2009 several other level IV [violations] were identified.
The most recent inspections conducted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) cites four violations in the construction of the $4.8 billion Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MOX) being constructed at the Savannah River Site.
In 2008 an audit by the Department of Energy's inspector general found that both time and money had been wasted when construction materials were bought and installed that did not meet technical specifications.
The report said that if it had gone undetected, the substandard materials could have, in a worst-case scenario, caused injury to workers or the public.
When the study was released, it stated that "the MOX facility had incurred costs of more than $680,000 due to problems associated with the procurement of $11 million of nonconforming safety-class reinforcing steel."
IF THEY CUT COSTS ON CONSTRUCTION MATERIAL, WHAT ELSE IS NOT UP TO SPECIFICATIONS?
CONGRESS HAS LONG KNOWN ABOUT THE PROBLEMS AT "MOX".
THEY SIMPLY DON'T CARE, OBVIOUSLY.
THE WHITE HOUSE SUGGESTED ENDING THIS 'BOONDOGGLE' BACK IN 2013.
"The White House on Wednesday suggested it might cancel construction of an Energy Department plant that would convert nuclear weapon-usable plutonium into fuel for atomic energy reactors.
The United States has already invested $4 billion in the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, one lawmaker said on Tuesday.
The projected cost for the controversial project has increased from $4.9 billion to $7.7 billion, according to congressional auditors, and its estimated completion date has been pushed back from 2016 to 2019.
"This current plutonium disposition approach may be unaffordable ... due to cost growth and fiscal pressure," the White House Management and Budget Office said in a briefing document on the DOE spending request for the fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1.
Specific budget figures were expected to be released later in the day.
NOPE...NOT THE INFORMATION FROM THE SENATE!
THAT HAS NEVER BEEN OPEN TO THE AMERICAN PUBLIC.
An administration official, who requested anonymity in speaking before senior Energy Department officials formally presented their fiscal 2014 budget plans, said "we owe it to the American people to continually review our work and make strategic decisions for the future, so we have stepped back to take a thoughtful look at the MOX project and our plutonium disposition options."
Appearing Tuesday on Capitol Hill, Energy Secretary-designate Ernest Moniz repeatedly refrained from offering an opinion on whether the MOX project should be completed or abandoned.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology physicist was the DOE special negotiator for the U.S.-Russian plutonium deal.
Some issue experts have argued there is a greater proliferation threat in the MOX route, including the potential for insiders to divert material at the conversion plant. There have also been questions about the market for the reactor fuel.
"You said there are basically two paths to go down, one being a path that we've already invested $4 billion, 60 percent completion, and the other path that we haven't started on. So my real question was, should we continue down this path?" Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said during an extended exchange of comments with the nominee.
Moniz answered, "All I can say, sir, is that, you know, I would need to be confirmed, look at what we're doing, look at the path forward, look at what the administration proposes, and then work with you and others to push through our commitment to dispose of 34 metric tons of plutonium."
Scott [REMEMBER, SCOTT IS FROM SOUTH CAROLINA AND WANTS THE PORK TO CONTINUE.] highlighted the expense of reversing course, including $1 million in daily penalties to the state of South Carolina for failing to complete work on schedule.
"If the funding is reduced by 50 (percent), 60 (percent), 75 percent, the ability to finish on time would not occur," the lawmaker said. "The impact on that to the federal government would be hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties."
AS OPPOSED TO MULTI-BILLIONS IN COST TO THE AMERICAN TAXPAYER?
CONGRESS DECIDES IT'S BETTER TO PUT THE HEAVY BURDEN OF COST ON MIDDLE CLASS AMERICANS AGAIN...AND AGAIN...AND AGAIN.
The senator's office [SCOTT'S] did not respond to a request for comment by press time on Wednesday.
There was also no immediate comment from plant contractor Shaw Areva MOX Services."
OLD SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, ANOTHER PIG FEEDING ON THE SENATE'S SECRETIVE PORK BARREL SPENDING, ALSO DEFENDED THE COSTLY LOSER PROGRAM.
"The MOX program, which turns weapons-grade plutonium into nuclear fuel, is the ultimate example of turning swords into plowshares," Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in remarks supporting the Senate's passage of the bill.
"This spending plan makes clear that the Senate remains committed to the MOX program and understands the importance of this project to our national security."
(SOURCE, Aiken Standard, April 27).
NO, LINDSEY, IT MAKES CLEAR THAT PORK IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN HUMAN BEINGS AND RUNAWAY, HIDDEN SENATE SPENDING.
WHAT'S CRYSTAL CLEAR IS THAT YOU CAPITOL HILL OINKERS WILL RISK OUR LIVES TO FUNNEL FEDERAL MONEY TO ALL YOUR STATES HOPING THAT WINS BOTH BIGGER DONATIONS FROM THE COMPANIES YOU HELP AND MORE VOTES FROM THE FOLKS BACK HOME IF YOU CAN BRING COMPANIES IN TO WORK ON SUCH SHODDY 'PROJECTS'.
SHOW US WHAT YOU'RE SPENDING OUR TAXPAYER DOLLARS ON!
SENATORS HIDE PENTAGON'S BUDGET, REFUSE TO OPEN IT TO PUBLIC SCRUTINY.
"Tomorrow the Senate Armed Services Committee will discuss whether their upcoming markups on the massive Pentagon budget should be done in public – something that the House does in the open but their Senate counterparts have historically refused to do.
Not surprisingly, tomorrow’s meeting will be held behind closed doors.
Our coalition has been working for years to shine a light on how Senate Armed Services Committee makes decisions on this massive defense-spending bill.
[We] believe there should be a presumption of openness in debating the many issues considered in this bill, including war authorization, base closures, authorizing new major weapon programs, and in changing the pay and benefits we authorize for our troops.
The refusal of the Senate to open up this process gives the impression that they don’t think their choices can withstand public scrutiny. Each of these issues has a profound impact on our national security and should be the subject of lively, public debate.
CANCEL ALL THE MOX FACILITY PLANS, SAY THE UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS.
The United States should cancel plans to build a multi-billion dollar plutonium research facility in New Mexico and postpone construction of an enriched-uranium processing plant in Tennessee, according to a report released Thursday by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
The UCS report, "Making Smart Security Choices," criticizes multiple Obama administration plans for nuclear facilities and weapons, arguing the plans to build new fissile-material handling plants in particular are unnecessarily ambitious given the expected future downward trajectory of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The Union of Concerned Scientists is an independent science advocacy organization.
The 81-page UCS report says if the United States carries out limited reductions of its nuclear arsenal over the next-quarter century -- as President Obama has said he would like to do -- current facilities at Los Alamos can produce sufficient plutonium cores to maintain the warhead stockpile.
"The NNSA should cancel the MOX program and embed excess plutonium in a stable glass or ceramic form suitable for disposal in a geological repository," the report reads.
Some of the examples listed in the report are downright alarming.
"A federal audit exposed the crisis recently.
...decades of faulty bookkeeping, weak security and lousy oversight has put the country’s nuclear weapon stockpile at risk.
This is incredibly serious and it appears the feds aren’t terribly concerned about making changes. The government agency, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), responsible for securing the nation’s nuclear weapons—and the facilities where they are housed—has failed miserably. This is obviously detrimental to national security and affects everyone who lives in this country.
For instance, the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, long embroiled in major security breach scandals, granted unauthorized access in violation of DOE rules. This includes access to nuclear weapons drawings to entire organizations or functional groups. This is the sort of stuff that’s supposed to be top secret. The lab also used parts for a specific type of bomb that did not conform to design specifications and it failed to ensure that the problem was corrected.
At another New Mexico facility, Sandia National Laboratory, investigators found repeated instances of “ineffective management of classified nuclear weapons drawings, a situation that could lead to unauthorized changes to the drawings.”
At the Pantex nuclear weapons assembly plant in Texas, officials couldn’t even find a chunk of the nuclear weapons that federal investigators picked from the stockpile for testing.
This is just downright crazy!
Who loses nuclear weapons inside a government facility that’s supposed to operate with maximum security?
Judicial Watch has documented the grave security issues at all of these facilities over the years, especially Los Alamos.
In fact, JW represented a whistleblower that exposed a major 1999 breach involving a Chinese scientist named Wen Ho Lee who stole sensitive nuclear secrets from the lab. JW has also reported on the government’s perpetual failure to adequately guard the lab’s highly classified material over the years.
This includes two Argentine scientists convicted just last summer of passing classified weapons data to a foreign government that’s hostile to the U.S."
LIKE I'VE SAID SO MANY TIMES BEFORE, IF AMERICANS DON'T CARE ENOUGH TO READ, TO DIG, TO WATCH WHAT'S GOING ON IN CONGRESS AND IN OUR "REGULATORY AND PROTECTION AGENCIES", MAYBE AMERICANS DESERVE WHATEVER COMES FROM THEIR NEGLIGENCE.
WE HAVE BOTH VOICES AND VOTES STILL, THOUGH BARELY.
WE, THE PEOPLE, ARE SUPPOSED TO BE IN CHARGE IN AMERICA, NOT CAMPAIGN DONATION-SEEKING, CROOKED CONGRESSMEN AND AGENCY OFFICIALS.
WE CAN EITHER TAKE BACK CONTROL OF THE REINS, OR WE CAN RIDE THE WAGON PULLED BY RUNAWAY HORSES OVER THE CLIFF.