Alexander said he's 'pretty well had it' with cost-growing DOE projects

Before Sen. Lamar Alexander's speech Wednesday at the Tennessee Valley Corridor Summit, I asked him about the Uranium Processing Facility and reports that it's on the verge of going over the top end of its cost range (currently set at $4.2 billion to $6.5 billion).

I asked the senator, who's been a big supporter of UPF, if there was a price tag that is too high to support. Here's what he said:

"Well, we'll have to decide that. One thing I want to make sure is we don't start constructing the facility until we have a design. And then I want it to be more like the big Spallation Neuron Source which we built a few years ago that (now ORNL Director) Thom Mason was in charge of. Once we knew the design and we knew the cost, even though the number was big ($1.4 billion), they stayed on time and on budget. I've pretty well had it with these big Energy Department projects that start out costing a billion dollars and end up costing $6 billion. We can't afford that. And we can use the money much more wisely, either to reduce the debt or to pay for energy research."

Is there a price tag that is simply too high?

"Well, I'm not going to say that. This is an essential building. As long as you're going to have a nuclear weapons defense system, you have to have a uranium facility to process what we use in our weapons. We have to have that. But we don't have to spend an extra billion dollars on it when we have a big debt and we could use the money better for energy research or for education scholarships or for other needs."


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    Frank MungerSenior Writer Frank Munger covers the Dept. of Energy's Oak Ridge facilities and many related topics — nuclear weapons, nuclear waste and other things nuclear, environmental cleanup and science of all sorts. Atomic City Underground is, first and foremost, a news blog, but there's room for analysis, opinion and random thoughts that have no place else to go. Contact Frank.

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