Sen. Graham puts hold on Energy nominee

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus New polls show tight races for Graham, McConnell Yates spars with GOP at testy hearing 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 Jeffrey MonizOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Dems press Trump consumer safety nominee on chemical issues | Lawmakers weigh how to help struggling energy industry | 180 Democrats ask House leadership for clean energy assistance Lawmakers weigh how to help struggling energy industry The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Surgeon General stresses need to invest much more in public health infrastructure, during and after COVID-19; Fauci hopeful vaccine could be deployed in December 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 WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Hillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns Tensions flare as GOP's Biden probe ramps up  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 Mason ReidMcConnell goes hands-off on coronavirus relief bill Kamala Harris to young Black women at conference: 'I want you to be ambitious' Obama calls filibuster 'Jim Crow relic,' backs new Voting Rights Act bill 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 ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottLobbyists see wins, losses in GOP coronavirus bill Revered civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis lies in state in the Capitol GOP plan would boost deduction for business meals 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.