SAVANNAH RIVER SITE- The contractor of a nuclear fuel project at the Savannah River Site near Aiken has asked federal regulators for more time for its work.

Shaw Areva MOX Services asked the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in May for a 10-year extension to build the mixed-oxide fuel fabrication facility, according to reports Thursday by local media outlets.

The project is part of an agreement with Russia to turn weapons-grade plutonium into commercial nuclear reactor fuel. Construction began in 2007, but the project is billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule. The current construction permit expires next year.

The cost overruns and delays have led the Obama administration to slash funding and propose shutting down construction to search for cheaper alternatives. Congressional support has backed funding through this fall, although a new budget has not been passed.

Noting the declining federal funding, Shaw in its extension request also mentioned a shortage of qualified vendors and delayed delivery of components, a shortage of qualified construction workers and the two-year difference between issuance of the permit and actual start of construction.

Officials wrote that the fuel fabrication building is "substantially complete, including roof and exterior structure," with more than 200,000 pounds of duct work and 70 tanks installed.

NRC officials told the Augusta Chronicle that no decision has been made on the extension request.