Sen. Graham puts hold on Energy nominee

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamThe Hill's 12:30 Report Back to the future: Congress should look to past for Fintech going forward CNN to host town hall featuring John McCain, Lindsey Graham MORE (R-S.C.) is putting a procedural hold on President Obama’s pick to run the Energy Department (DOE), an aide told The Hill on Tuesday.

Graham is blocking Ernest MonizErnest MonizWhat we learned from Rick Perry's confirmation hearing Overnight Energy: Rough hearing for Tillerson Overnight Energy: Former Exxon chief Tillerson takes the hot seat MORE until he receives answers about how the nominee for energy secretary will handle a nuclear waste disposal program in South Carolina.

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Sen. Ron WydenRon WydenMnuchin aiming for tax reform by August Dems rip Trump administration for revoking Obama's transgender directive IPAB’s Medicare cuts will threaten seniors’ access to care MORE (D-Ore.), who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, told The Hill in the Capitol on Tuesday that he "was not aware of any hold," explaining he understood Graham has a meeting with Moniz scheduled for Wednesday.

Moniz, a physicist who runs the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Energy Initiative, is expected to eventually earn confirmation from the full Senate. Wyden said he has been talking to Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidSanders and Schumer are right: Ellison for DNC chair The Hill's 12:30 Report Hopes rise for law to expand access to experimental drugs MORE (D-Nev.) "continuously" to get a full Senate vote on Moniz "as expeditiously as possible."

But Graham’s concerns about the future of the Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX) program at the Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C., will delay a vote.

The project would convert weapons-grade plutonium into fuel for commercial nuclear reactors. Moniz would oversee the program if confirmed, as DOE manages the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile.

But the MOX program, slated to be operational by 2017, is running a decade behind its scheduled 2007 opening. At an estimated $4.8 billion price tag, it’s also three times costlier than initially projected.

To address the cost overruns, the DOE and the White House brokered a deal in February to slash the program’s budget by 75 percent.

That has alarmed Graham and Sen. Tim ScottTim ScottGOP rep: No ‘artificial crowd’ at my town hall A guide to the committees: Senate Republicans at risk in 2018 steering clear of town halls MORE (R-S.C.), who cast the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s lone vote opposing Moniz’s nomination earlier this month.

Scott explained that he voted against Moniz because of his “lack of clarity on the future of the MOX program,” calling it “unacceptable.”

— This story was updated at 2:51 p.m.