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      Savannah River Site MOX costs worry some congressional leaders

      Savannah River Site / FILE

      AUGUSTA, Ga. (WACH, AP) -- A congressional committee is expressing concern over rising costs and potential delays at the U.S. Energy Department's mixed oxide fuel project at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

      The mixed oxide, or MOX, plant is designed to dispose of plutonium from dismantled bombs by blending it with uranium to make commercial reactor fuel.

      House Appropriations Committee members wrote in the fiscal 2012 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill that the program's costs continue to escalate, with current estimates as high as $9.7 billion.

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      The National Nuclear Security Administration says the program remains within its budget projection of $4.8 billion, with an additional $345 million needed for a waste solidification building.

      The Augusta Chronicle reports that other committee concerns include the NNSA's inability to find clients willing to use MOX.

      The General Accountability Office said last year the National Nuclear Security Administration needs to do better outreach to utilities who could become customers for the fuel made from weapons-grade plutonium.

      The GAO also said that the mixed oxide fuel facility at the Savannah River Site near Aiken is on schedule to open in 2016.

      (The Associated Press contributed to this report.)