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Unneeded MOX property, equipment hits online auction block

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The Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility was more than a decade in the making when the National Nuclear Security Administration terminated the project in 2018.

Thousands of pieces of unused property, gear and equipment salvaged from the scuttled Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility project are up for grabs, with prices Tuesday ranging from $10 to $60,000.

Construction materials, hardware and tools, transformers, fire suppression nozzles, control panels and glovebox ports, among other things, are listed for sale in online auctions handled by AW Properties Global and PPL Group, a pair of Illinois firms.

Gloveboxes – key to MOX's nuclear fuel mission – are used to safely handle toxic or dangerous materials, like plutonium.

Diana Peterson, the president and CEO of AW Properties Global, in a statement described the auctions as "a rare opportunity to acquire brand new equipment that is top nuclear grade." Similarly, Joel Bersh, an executive vice president and partner at PPL, said the "assets for sale from the Savannah River Site mark" a "rare opportunity."

The Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility, partially built at the Savannah River Site south of Aiken, was designed to turn metric tons of surplus defense plutonium into fuel for commercial nuclear reactors.

The multibillion-dollar project, incomplete after more than a decade of work and a favorite of some South Carolina lawmakers, was nixed by the National Nuclear Security Administration in late 2018. Another plutonium disposal method, dilute-and-dispose, would be half the cost – far cheaper – and more efficient, NNSA and U.S. Department of Energy officials said at the time.

The cancellation of MOX stranded a cache of property. Dave Olson, the Savannah River Nuclear Solutions executive vice president of NNSA capital projects, earlier this year said the mothballing effort left his team with roughly 9 million pieces of "uninstalled equipment" that were bought and never "put in." A majority of that, Olson said in February, had been earmarked for use in plutonium pit production – the forging of nuclear weapon cores, likely at the Savannah River Site – and other ventures.

The MOX assets on the auction block are currently kept in Barnwell, item descriptions and announcements from AW Properties Global and PPL show.

Savannah River Site Watch Director Tom Clements on Tuesday condemned the auctions, painting them as "secretive" giveaways that further highlight "the massive waste of money spent on equipment that was stockpiled willy-nilly just to spend annual budgets and enrich contractors."

"The most just thing to do to empty the warehouse is to open the doors to the facility and let patriotic citizens take whatever they want, as they paid for it and have absolutely received nothing in exchange for their forced financial support of the MOX project for over 20 years," Clements said.

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