Sen. Graham hints at possible compromise on DOE hold

The comments come after Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Wednesday that Moniz’s confirmation has dragged on for too long.

Wyden, whose committee oversees the DOE nomination, noted he had met several times with Graham and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) to discuss the MOX issue. The Palmetto State lawmakers also have conversed with administration officials about the matter.

Graham is blocking Moniz’s nomination because of concerns regarding MOX program’s future. The project, located at the Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C., is supposed to convert a backlog of plutonium into fuel for commercial nuclear reactors.

But MOX is behind schedule and facing large cost overruns. The DOE has requested budget cuts, and the Obama administration is looking at other options for disposing of the plutonium.

Graham said he would rather the administration commit to a study on how to lower the program’s costs.

“My concern is that we’re stopping the program to study alternatives that have no ability to produce results and will cost far more than continuing the program. The administration is right to want to lower costs of the MOX program. They’re wrong to want to study and alternative, and I fear that once you do the study the thing will be abandoned,” Graham said.

Despite the concerns from South Carolina’s senators, Moniz enjoys bipartisan support and is expected to receive confirmation from the full Senate. 

Moniz, a physicist and former undersecretary of Energy during former President Clinton’s administration, currently directs the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Energy Initiative.