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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, as did my colleague from Georgia Senator Isakson, I wish to thank Senator Graham for his leadership on this issue. He is right. We have been to the facility a number of times to examine what is going on there. There is great work being done by highly trained, highly educated individuals to deal with one of the most sensitive products we have in this country.

The Senator is exactly right that there are significant consequences from an international standpoint if the numbers in the President's budget are allowed to stand. That is why we have had conversations with a number of individuals currently at the Department of Energy and why we had a conversation with Dr. Moniz in preparation for his confirmation by this body. Those discussions have led to the fact that, as the Senator from Georgia says, we are willing--and we have their agreement that they are willing--to sit down with a contractor to talk about the money. That is the real issue because we are talking about a budget item and whether we can afford to do this. If we don't involve the contractor, then obviously we can't get that number down to a manageable number.

So, again, with the leadership of the Senator from South Carolina, we look forward to working with Dr. Moniz and others with respect to sitting down with the contractor and coming to some resolution of the ultimate budget number that is going to be needed.

With respect to Russia, the President met with President Medvedev in 2010, and the two of them, in a press conference, talked about the MOX facility and the agreement on MOX. Here we are 3 years later with this President submitting a budget number that, in fact, in effect starves this program and would have the obvious intended result of eliminating this program, thus breaking his word with President Medvedev in 2010 as well as breaking the U.S. agreement with Russia. That has the potential to have very serious consequences on the international stage.

Also, abandoning the project would have severe economic impact to both the State of Georgia and the State of South Carolina because of the individuals who have been working there for now, as Senator Isakson said, 50 years.

It is also going to strand up to 64 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium. Where else is it going to go? There is no place else for it to go. There is no State jumping up and down saying: Please bring your uranium and your plutonium to my State and we will deal with it. You can transport it to my State. In fact, the exact opposite is happening.

It was intended that we would process this plutonium and it would ultimately ship to Yucca Mountain, as Senator Graham alluded to. Now the State of Nevada is saying no. They are throwing up their hands and saying: We don't want that processed material in our State because it is hazardous waste.

Well, what we are saying is, we are happy doing what we are doing because we have those trained, sophisticated professionals who know how to deal with this hazardous material. They do an outstanding job of it. We have spent billions of dollars constructing the facilities to the point where they are 40 percent away from being completed now. If we just accept the President's budget, then we will have wasted all of that money and the construction phase of the buildings that are there. Also, we are not going to have anywhere to put this 64 metric tons of hazardous material and weapons-grade plutonium.

So this stands to have economic impacts to our part of the country. It stands to certainly create international issues with the Russians if we break our agreement with them. Also, just as significantly, it leaves 64 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium outstanding, with nowhere to go, nowhere to store it.

The MOX project was designed to deal with a very sophisticated issue years and years and years ago, and it just makes no sense whatsoever to stop in the middle of it now and say, well, we just don't have the money to take care of something that is as hazardous and potentially as life-threatening as what this weapons-grade plutonium is.

We do need to spend our money wisely. We have to be careful. But there are agreements we need to honor. There are certain aspects of governing that need to be done and need to be done in the right way, and this is simply one of those.

So with the continued leadership of Senator Graham and Senator Isakson and Senator Scott, I look forward to us sitting down with Dr. Moniz once he is confirmed--and we are all going to vote to confirm him today--because he has so much knowledge about this.

One thing we failed to mention is the fact that he is the guy who negotiated the agreement. He is the guy the President is saying, well, we know you went through some very difficult times in negotiating this with the Russians, but the heck with your agreement, the heck with all the work you did. Thank goodness his attitude is that he wants to work with us.

We want to find a way forward. We look forward to his confirmation being completed, to sitting down with us and the contractor, and let's figure out a way we can make this project the continued success it has been thus far, as well as moving forward.

With that, I yield to Senator Graham.


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