“The USA must first restore its relations with Russia destroyed by Obama and only after this they can offer us talks on nuclear weapons. Right now his calls are empty,” MP Aleksey Pushkov (United Russia) tweeted.
The Arms industry, Of course, on both sides, is jumping for joy.
Washington decided it would be cheaper to mix nuclear materials with special additives. Russia insisted that the US was violating the terms of the deal, which required it to use a nuclear reactor to transmute plutonium. Unlike the mixing technology, the latter method makes the process irreversible.
Approved by Congress as far back as 1998, the Savannah River Site’s Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX) Fabrication Facility is designed to turn weapons-grade plutonium into power plant reactor fuel. Moscow and Washington signed a deal in 2000 under which each country would dispose of 34 tons of plutonium.
Since then e
verything has gone wrong for the MOX deal. The project’s cost was initially estimated at $1.7 billion, but by 2013 it had risen to $7.7. In addition, approximately $5 billion, three times the original estimate, has already been spent since construction began in 2007. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and contractors working on the project say it is currently 70 percent complete.
However, the MOX facility was never favored by the Obama administration. When the US president came to power, he ordered the closure of the proposed facility to make way for an alternative plant in New Mexico, which would use a cheaper processing method known as dilution and disposal. The DOE also maintains that the MOX site in South Carolina is only 40 percent complete and would cost $1 billion a year to operate.
“We are in a situation where the MOX approach has extreme uncertainties,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee last month. Moniz said previously that the Russian contract could be moved to the New Mexico facility.
The stakes were raised after a clause in the contract between the state and the federal government was activated at the beginning of the year, when the government failed to remove one ton of plutonium from South Carolina as stipulated. The fine for the delay is $1 million per day, with a cap of $100 million.
South Carolina is now lodging a lawsuit to recover the money from the federal budget and make sure that MOX is completed.
The DOE has attempted to compromise by offering to remove 6 tons of plutonium unrelated to the Russian deal, but South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley says the state will not abandon its legal claim, as “the DOE has not lived up to promises made in the past.”
‘Not what we agreed on,’ says Putin
While South Carolina squeezes from one side, Washington is also facing mounting pressure from Russia on the other.
On Thursday, Vladimir Putin voiced Moscow’s growing frustration, both with the delay and the US’ decision to turn to dilution and disposal.
„the radical change in the environment, a threat to strategic stability posed by the hostile actions of the US against Russia, and the inability of the US to deliver on the obligation to dispose of excessive weapons plutonium under international treaties, as well as the need to take swift action to defend Russian security”