Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), Wednesday blasted South Carolina’s two Republican senators for blocking and objecting to the Senate confirmation of Ernest J. Moniz as secretary of the Department of Energy (DOE) to protect a nuclear fuel facility in their home state.

Lindsey Graham is seeking to hold up the nomination of Moniz, a physics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to protect the troubled Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX) facility at the Savannah River site in Aiken, SC, Lymen wrote in a blog. Sen. Tim Scott objects to the Moniz nomination, but he has not formally placed a hold on it, his spokesman said.

The MOX facility, which would convert weapons-grade plutonium into fuel for commercial nuclear reactors, was supposed to open in 2007. It now is scheduled to begin operating in 2017 and is projected to cost $7.7 billion to complete, nearly eight times its original estimate price tag of $1 billion, said Lyman.

“This is old-fashioned pork-barrel politics at its most fundamental: two senators trying to secure a gravy train of federal funding for their home state by keeping alive a project so flawed that even its sponsor and formerly biggest defender [the DOE] appears poised to abandon it,” he noted.

Lyman noted that he called on the DOE two years ago to “pull the plug on the MOX ‘factory to nowhere.'”

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee overwhelmingly voted out Moniz’s nomination last month (see Daily GPI, April 19). The nomination cleared the panel by a 21-1 vote. It has not yet been scheduled for a vote by the full Senate.

Cambridge, MA-based UCS is a nonprofit organization that conducts independent scientific analysis of major problems facing the globe.

©Copyright 2013Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news reportmay not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in anyform, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.