A request by CB&I Areva MOX Services (MOX Services) to terminate the construction authorisation for the partially built US mixed-oxide (mox) fuel fabrication facility (MFFF) at Savannah River in South Carolina was granted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on 13 February. MOX Services asked NRC terminate the construction authorisation in a letter dated 1 November after construction stopped in October 2018, when the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) issued a contract termination notice to the consortium.
The MFFF was being built as part of a 2000 agreement with Russia under which each country undertook to dispose of 34 tonnes of weapons-grade plutonium. A contract to design, build and operate the facility was awarded to the Shaw Areva MOX Services consortium (now CB&I Areva MOX Services) in 1999. The construction authorisation was issued in March 2005, and construction began in 2007 with the plant originally due to start operation in October 2016. It was about 70% complete when work ceased, with some equipment already on site.
By January 2018, 92% of structural concrete and 94% of rebar had been placed, 29 of 31 active gallery modules had been installed, and 12 of 16 support buildings were complete. However the project was over budget and behind schedule. In May 2017 total costs were estimated at $10 billion, compared with the original estimate of $.9 billion. DOE sought to terminate the project in 2016, and in 2018 US Energy Secretary Rick Perry notified Congress that he was executing a waiver to end construction of the facility. DOE has now adopted a "dilute and dispose" option for the 34 tonnes of plutonium, which will ultimately be disposed of at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.
Terminating a licence would normally require an environmental assessment, but NRC said that as no nuclear material had ever been brought o the site, no environmental assessment was necessary and the site can be released for unrestricted use immediately.