Rep. Joe Wilson pleaded Wednesday for congressional support for moving more nuclear waste out of South Carolina.
But he left the House energy and water development subcommittee without any firm commitment.
Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, the committee’s top Democrat, initially thanked Wilson, a South Carolina Republican, for “bringing forward the importance of nuclear waste disposal.” She said she considered the disposal of spent nuclear ordnance a “job creator” as well.
However, she seemed hesitant about his proposal to move nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain in Nevada.
“I was glad that he came, and obviously he’s representing the interests of South Carolina and asked for continuation of the work that’s been done on MOX but seemed to be encouraging that product be moved to Yucca Mountain so I want to talk to him more about that,” Kaptur told McClatchy.
Wilson primarily focused his testimony on the Savannah River Site, a nuclear waste site that has existed since the early 1950s. The site handles numerous nuclear operations, including converting nuclear waste, serving as a temporary nuclear repository, conducting nuclear research and developing green energy.
A key component of the Savannah River Site is the mixed oxide fuel fabrication facility, referred to as MOX. The facility, which has been in development since 1999, will convert weapons-grade plutonium into renewable energy upon completion.
Wilson did get some sympathy. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., called the Savannah River Site “critically important.”
The MOX site was part of an agreement with the Russian Federation to provide a better alternative for disposing of radioactive plutonium, according to MOX’s official website. The MOX facility is only roughly 70 percent complete, Wilson explained, due to a “roller coaster” of funding inconsistencies throughout the past few presidencies, all of which delay the project’s completion date and increase its total cost.
Wilson was not specific about how much money MOX and rest of the Savannah River Site need to address funding shortcomings or where the funding would come from. He did say the costs should take into account the fuel MOX would produce.
The delays have frustrated Wilson, who said the Savannah River Site was not designed to be a permanent nuclear storage facility. The longer delays increase the urgency of environmental concerns for Wilson and his district.
He offered an alternative to storing the waste in South Carolina: completing the controversial Yucca Mountain license application and storing the waste there in the Nevada desert.
“My view is that this environmentally sound,” Wilson told McClatchy. “A key point I want to make is that I’m not trying to do anything injurious to the people of Nevada. I’m trying to do what’s best for them. It was my understanding that the local community around the repository are not in opposition to the repository.”