Thursday, August 15, 2013
The projected 500 layoffs at MOX could strip $42 million from the annual payroll in five local counties.
The multimillion-dollar figure comes from an economic impact study commissioned by the Savannah River Site Community Reuse Organization. The five counties mentioned in the study are: Allendale, Barnwell, and Aiken counties in South Carolina, and Richmond and Columbia counties in Georgia.
“A loss of jobs at the MOX facility affects not just Aiken County, but the entire CSRA,” Terra Carroll, president of the North Augusta Chamber of Commerce, said. “As a region, we are working diligently to ensure the future of a healthy workforce and every job is important. Collaborations between South Carolina and Georgia leadership will continue to be an essential component in the sustainability and growth of our skilled workforce and quality of life.”
“We will continue looking for ways to help these people find manufacturing job opportunities,” added Will Williams, director of the Economic Development Partnership.
In response to proposed federal budget cuts, MOX issued layoff notices 60 days in advance to allow workers time to seek other employment opportunities.
In addition, MOX has assisted workers in pursuing employment.
“To assist these employees in their search for employment, the MOX project organized a job fair in July with 22 companies participating,” wrote Sen. Tom Young, R-S.C., in a letter to his constituents. “Additionally, Shaw/Areva is working with the Secretary of Energy (Dr. Ernest Moniz) and one of his senior advisers on funding for the project. Our local state legislative delegation continues to monitor this issue and how we can assist.”
Through all of the efforts to assist workers, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C, as well as Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., remain two of the MOX project’s biggest supporters. Both expressed their support of the facility in the aftermath of the layoff announcement.
“The Obama administration needs to realize that completing the facility and letting folks get to work is the most effective use of taxpayer dollars when it comes to upholding our standing agreement with Russia to dispose of nuclear material,” Scott said. “I will continue carrying this message to the federal government at every opportunity.”
“I was pleased to include a provision in the Fiscal Year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act that urges the Department of Energy to continue with the project,” reads a statement from Rep. Wilson’s office. “I will remain the Site’s largest advocate and fight to keep construction of the MOX facility alive with a full workforce.”
Layoffs at MOX will continue over the next two months, ending on Oct. 1, which marks the date of the federal government’s new fiscal year.
The MOX plant currently employs approximately 1,900 workers, and is designed to turn weapons-grade plutonium into nuclear reactor fuel. Its work is part of a nonproliferation effort between the United States and Russia to dispose of at least 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium.
The project has undergone years of cost overruns and delays. The Government Accountability Office reported in June that the plant is $3 billion over budget, costing an estimated $7.7 billion.
Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard news team and joined the paper in June. He is originally from Vidalia, Ga., and graduated from Georgia Southern University with a journalism degree in May 2012.