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Cost Overruns Plague Energy Department Projects

The Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility, known as MOX, isn’t the only high-profile project by the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration that is behind schedule and over budget. Of the 51 projects listed on the department’s monthly project dashboard, 10 are expected to breach their cost, schedule or scope.

“Unfortunately, MOX has become par for the NNSA course,” said Laura Peterson of Taxpayers for Common Sense.

She said the Government Accountability Office has had the agency on its high-risk list for more than 20 years and that “cost overruns at NNSA alone totaled more than $15 billion in 2007.”

Last year, NNSA administrators acknowledged they would have to spend an additional $500 million for a uranium processing facility at the government’s Y-12 facility in Tennessee because the equipment wouldn’t fit into the building.

And the agency put the $5 billion Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico on hold last year for at least five years.

In an attempt to curb the cost overruns, lawmakers included a provision in the fiscal 2013 Defense Authorization law (PL 112-239) that requires a “detailed estimate of budget requirements associated with sustaining and modernizing the nuclear deterrent of the United States.”

Some lawmakers wanted to go further. A Senate amendment to the defense bill by Arizona Republican Jon Kyl and New Mexico Democrat Tom Udall would have created a congressional advisory panel to review the NNSA’s structure and recommend changes — including whether to strip the agency of its responsibilities for nonproliferation activities.

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