Sen. Graham puts hold on Energy nominee

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamRepublicans' mantra should have been 'Stop the Spread' Senators preview bill to stop tech giants from prioritizing their own products Democrats fret as longshot candidates pull money, attention 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: Supreme Court declines to hear challenge to Obama marine monument designation | Interior reverses course on tribal ownership of portion of Missouri river | White House climate adviser meets with oil and gas companies Moniz: Texas blackouts show need to protect infrastructure against climate change The Hill's Morning Report - Biden: Back to the future on immigration, Afghanistan, Iran 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 WydenCongress needs to step up on crypto, or Biden might crush it Democrats face growing storm over IRS reporting provision Best shot at narrowing racial homeownership gap at risk, progressives say 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 ReidDemocrats brace for tough election year in Nevada The Memo: Biden's horizon is clouded by doubt Fight over Biden agenda looms large over Virginia governor's race 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 ScottTim Scott takes in .3 million in third quarter Nikki Haley gets lifetime post on Clemson Board of Trustees First senator formally endorses Bass in LA mayoral bid 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.