Senate appropriators on Thursday in a nearly unanimous decision approved the Obama administration's entire fiscal 2013 budget request for the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, the Aiken Standard reported (see GSN, April 25).
The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 28-1 in favor of an energy and water funding bill for the budget year that begins on Oct. 1.
The legislation provides roughly $1.7 billion for the Energy Department complex. Of that amount, $388 million is budgeted for work on a controversial facility that would convert nuclear-weapon plutonium into mixed-oxide fuel for use in atomic energy reactors; $444 million is also allocated for site risk management operations.
Assuming the legislation passes out of the Democrat-led Senate, it would still have to be meshed with a similar bill moving through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. The lower chamber's appropriators opted to scale back MOX funding at the Savannah River Site by $124 million (see GSN, June 17, 2011).
"The MOX program, which turns weapons-grade plutonium into nuclear fuel, is the ultimate example of turning swords into plowshares," Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in remarks supporting the Senate's passage of the bill. "This spending plan makes clear that the Senate remains committed to the MOX program and understands the importance of this project to our national security" (Suzanne Stone, Aiken Standard, April 27).