May 15 2013
Tate Zeigler (202-224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)
WASHINGTON – The United States senators representing the states of South Carolina and Georgia – Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Tim Scott (R-South Carolina), Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia) and Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia) today warned that the Obama administration is jeopardizing the 60-year partnership between the Savannah River Site and both states over its interest in changing the agreed-upon plan to dispose of surplus weapons-grade plutonium.
In 2000, with the signing of the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PDMA) with the Russian Federation, the United States and Russia agreed to dispose of 68 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium. The United States’ plan would send American plutonium to the Savannah River Site (SRS) where it would be turned into commercial nuclear fuel (MOX).
In 2010, President Obama hailed the plutonium disposition agreement in a joint press conference with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, and noted it prevented terrorists from acquiring these materials. Now, the Obama administration is seemingly backing away from the MOX program and the agreements made with the state of South Carolina.
The senators noted four areas of concern with the Obama Administration’s plan to slow, if not completely scrap, the MOX program:
Delays to the MOX program threaten American national security;
Potential alternatives to MOX have already been studied and they fail to meet our economic or nonproliferation needs;
Reassessment of the MOX program adds billions of additional costs and uncertainty domestically; and
Plans to again study plutonium disposition alternatives destroy 60 years of collaboration with South Carolina and the Savannah River Site.
“It is with great dismay that your Fiscal Year 2014 budget request risks the future of the PMDA and the MOX program,” wrote the senators. “Your budget request will result in the breaking of our international agreement with Russia, the stranding of up to 68 metric tons of weapons grade plutonium, the addition of billions of dollars in increased costs to the government, and the violation of commitments the federal government has made to the state of South Carolina. This is unacceptable and we will be looking to use the confirmation, authorization, and appropriations processes to ensure the program moves forward.”
“A fundamental component to the MOX project involves assurances to South Carolina regarding the ultimate disposition of the plutonium,” said the senators. “Never before has the local community had their faith in DOE and SRS tested as they do now. The delays in the MOX program have caused the community to once again fear that the plutonium currently in state will remain there indefinitely.
“The residents of South Carolina and Georgia have always been willing partners of DOE in carrying out missions critical to our national security at SRS,” wrote the senators. “The residents of the states have never hesitated to support the mission of SRS even though it resulted in the shipment, storage, and use of some of the most dangerous items known to man. In fact, the community surrounding the site is widely regarded as the most supportive community of any DOE site in the country. We want to be able to continue this partnership.”
Full text of the letter to President Obama:
May 13, 2013
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
On June 24, 2010, on the heels of your Nuclear Security Summit, where you trumpeted a major non-proliferation agreement with Russia, you held a joint press conference with Russian President Medvedev, and stated that, “…to prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons, we came together at our Nuclear Security Summit, where our two nations made numerous commitments, including agreeing to eliminate enough plutonium for about 17,000 nuclear weapons.” This statement was the culmination of years of work that began in 2000 with the signing of the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA) with Russia to dispose of 68 metric tons of weapons grade plutonium. The program involved sending plutonium to the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina where it would be turned into commercial nuclear fuel at the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MOX).
Now it is with great dismay that your Fiscal Year 2014 budget request risks the future of the PMDA and the MOX program. Your budget request will result in the breaking of our international agreement with Russia, the stranding of up to 68 metric tons of weapons grade plutonium, the addition of billions of dollars in increased costs to the government, and the violation of commitments the federal government has made to the state of South Carolina. This is unacceptable and we will be looking to use the confirmation, authorization, and appropriations processes to ensure the program moves forward.
Your recently submitted budget request calls for slowing down the MOX project while the Administration conducts an assessment of alternative plutonium disposition strategies. Officials at the Department of Energy (DOE) and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) have been unable to explain exactly what this means. They are unable to provide an idea as to who will conduct the study, the length of the study, or the options being studied. They are unable to explain what the impact of the budget request will have on the construction of the facility, the impact on the schedule for the disposition of plutonium, or a cost estimate for the increased storage costs due to any additional delays that result from the study. Additionally, nobody has been able to explain how the Administration plans to comply with Section 4306 of the Atomic Energy Defense Act (50 USC 2566) which mandates at least one metric ton of plutonium be processed through MOX or be removed from South Carolina by 2016 or the federal government will be liable for fines to South Carolina of up to $100 million per year.
While we would like to work with you and the contractor to reduce construction and operating costs at MOX, make no mistake; the decision to slow down the plutonium disposition project makes no sense from a national security or an economic point of view. Your decision violates the commitments that were made to South Carolina and jeopardizes a 60-year partnership between the Savannah River Site (SRS) and the state. We will not allow this ill-conceived plan to proceed.
Delays to the MOX program threaten our national security
As a result of your budget request, the U.S. will be forced to notify Russia that it cannot meet the 2018 start date of plutonium disposition as set forth in the PMDA or conversely, that it is withdrawing from its obligations under the PMDA. In turn, this can be expected to cause Russia to slow down or halt its plutonium disposition efforts. If this were to happen, 34 metric tons of surplus Russian plutonium would then become available for re-use in nuclear weapons or become subject to an increased risk of theft or diversion.
In addition, delaying plutonium disposition sends a strong signal to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the world community that the U.S. is walking back on its support for nuclear nonproliferation.
Delaying or canceling MOX eliminates the means by which the U.S. is able to dispose of additional quantities of surplus weapons grade plutonium from future stockpile reductions and/or Arms Control Agreements.
Reassessment of the MOX program adds billions of additional costs and uncertainty domestically
While we share your concern about the cost increases associated with the plutonium disposition program, your budget request does nothing to reduce these costs.
A decision to significantly delay construction of the MOX facility would likely kill the overall plutonium disposition effort and leave the U.S. with no means to dispose of its stocks of surplus weapons grade plutonium. This would leave 34 metric tons of plutonium stranded with no disposition path at SRS in South Carolina, Pantex in Texas, and other sites across the country. As a result, the government will be forced to continue its current program of storing and monitoring this nuclear material indefinitely. The storage of this material alone costs hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
A decision to slow down or halt MOX construction can be expected to have an adverse impact on operations at Pantex which currently stores the U.S. inventory of surplus and non-surplus plutonium pits. A significant fraction of Pantex’s pit inventory is destined for fabrication into MOX fuel on a just-in-time processing basis. Furthermore, current and expected future declines in the active stockpile are expected to increase the number of pits already stored at Pantex, creating a need for tens and perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars to design and construct safe, secure additional pit storage capacity at Pantex in the event that plutonium disposition at SRS does not take place.
Consequently, any significant delay to MOX construction or concomitant funding reduction would lead to the lay off of hundreds of highly-skilled nuclear craft workers employed on the project, workers it takes years and significant cost to hire and train.
Potential alternatives to MOX fail to meet our economic or nonproliferation needs
Studies on how best to dispose of surplus plutonium have been ongoing since 1995. In 2001, a study prepared for the National Security Council by NNSA, Analysis of Options for U.S. and Russian Plutonium Management and Disposition, evaluated more than 40 approaches for plutonium disposition with 12 distinct options selected for detailed analysis, i.e., six mixed-oxide (MOX)-based reactor disposition options, two advanced reactor disposition options, and four non-reactor options (immobilization and long-term storage). MOX has always been the best option to meet our nonproliferation goals at the best cost to the taxpayer.
Any alternative to MOX would add years to the plutonium disposition process and would come with additional complications. For example, if the government were to pursue vitrification, it would take years of additional research and development in order to research, design, license and construct a vitrification facility. This would be further complicated by the fact that according to NNSA, vitrification/immobilization is no longer an option because there are insufficient quantities of high level waste (HLW) in the SRS waste tanks to immobilize over 40 metric tons of weapons grade plutonium. Vitrification also fails to meet the nonproliferation goals of putting the plutonium beyond re-use.
With the half-life of plutonium being 24,000 years, the most expensive option was long-term storage because it requires the expenditure of many millions of dollars a year for storage, security, and health physics after which, the U.S. government would still have to pay for disposition.
This plan destroys 60 years of collaboration with South Carolina and the Savannah River Site
Importantly, your current plan will destroy over 60 years of collaboration with South Carolina and Georgia. The residents of South Carolina and Georgia have always been willing partners of DOE in carrying out missions critical to our national security at SRS. The residents of the states have never hesitated to support the mission of SRS even though it resulted in the shipment, storage, and use of some of the most dangerous items known to man. In fact, the community surrounding the site is widely regarded as the most supportive community of any DOE site in the country. We want to be able to continue this partnership.
A fundamental component to the MOX project involves assurances to South Carolina regarding the ultimate disposition of the plutonium. Never before has the local community had their faith in DOE and SRS tested as they do now. The delays in the MOX program have caused the community to once again fear that the plutonium currently in state will remain there indefinitely.
During your first term, you made an effort to focus the government’s attention on securing the supply of nuclear weapons around the world. Cancellation of the MOX program after investing 17 years to study disposition alternatives, completing the necessary environmental reviews, designing the facility, obtaining the necessary Nuclear Regulatory Commission construction license, appropriating and spending hundreds of millions in the effort and completing more that 60% of the actual MOX Facility would be a terrible blemish on DOE’s reputation for completing major construction projects. After signing an agreement with Russia that has been ratified by the Duma, getting the Director General of the IAEA to agree to monitor plutonium disposition in each country and testifying for years to Congress and the American public about the urgent need to eliminate surplus weapons-usable fissile materials in speeches by various Presidents, National Security Advisers, Secretaries of Energy, Secretaries of State and other senior U.S. government officials, to now cancel the MOX Project would be a major domestic and international embarrassment which will take years to recover from.
Saxby ChamblissJohnny Isakson
May 13 2013
Tate Zeigler (202-224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)
Washington – U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) today released the following statement on President Obama’s comments this afternoon on the attack against the U.S. Special Mission facility in Benghazi, Libya that killed four brave Americans on September 11, 2012:
“During a press conference this afternoon, President Obama claimed that, ‘The day after [Benghazi] happened, I acknowledged that this was an act of terrorism.’ This statement contradicts his comments over the course of two weeks after the attack in which the President repeatedly and specifically refused, in the heat of his re-election campaign, to label Benghazi a terrorist attack, despite the fact that there was compelling evidence that it was an al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist attack.
“To be clear, on September 12th in the Rose Garden, President Obama made a generic reference to ‘acts of terror.’ But that same day he was specifically asked by Steve Kroft of CBS’ ‘60 Minutes’ if he believed Benghazi was a terrorist attack, and the President refused to say so, stating, ‘it’s too early to know exactly how this came about, what group was involved.’ Six days later on ‘The Late Show with David Letterman,’ the President was asked what happened in Benghazi and responded by blaming the attack on an ‘extremely offensive video.’ Two days after that on Univision, the President said ‘we’re still doing an investigation,’ and blamed it in part on ‘the natural protests that arose because of the outrage over the video.’ Four days later on ‘The View,’ Joy Behar asked specifically if it was an act of terrorism, and the President again said ‘we’re still doing an investigation.’ The next day, in remarks to the United Nations in New York a full two weeks after the attack, President Obama still made no reference to Benghazi as an act of terrorism but blamed recent violence on ‘a crude and disgusting video [that] sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world.’
“In light of recent revelations and whistleblower testimony last week before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, it is very clear that we need a Joint Select Committee to resolve these contradictions and answer the many other unanswered questions about this tragedy. The Administration is spinning the American people and stonewalling Congress. This is unacceptable. The American people and the loved ones of those killed in Benghazi deserve to know the truth.”
PRESIDENT OBAMA ON BENGHAZI: SEPTEMBER 12-25
September 12, Rose Garden: President Obama makes generic reference to “no act of terror”
OBAMA: "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for."
September 12, CBS’ “60 Minutes:” Answering question about whether he believes that Libya “was a terrorist attack,” President Obama says “It’s too early to know exactly how this came about, what group was involved …”
KROFT: "Mr. President, this morning you went out of your way to avoid the use of the word terrorism in connection with the Libya Attack, do you believe that this was a terrorist attack?"
OBAMA: "Well it’s too early to know exactly how this came about, what group was involved, but obviously it was an attack on Americans. And we are going to be working with the Libyan government to make sure that we bring these folks to justice, one way or the other."
September 18, CBS’ “Late Show with David Letterman:” President Obama blames attack on “extremely offensive video”
LETTERMAN: “Now, I don’t understand, um, the ambassador to Libya killed in an attack on the consulate in Benghazi. Is this an act of war? Are we at war now? What happens here?”
OBAMA: “Here's what happened. ... You had a video that was released by somebody who lives here, sort of a shadowy character who – who is extremely offensive video directed at – at Mohammed and Islam…”
LETTERMAN: “Making fun of the Prophet Mohammed.”
OBAMA: “Making fun of the Prophet Mohammed. And so, this caused great offense in much of the Muslim world. But what also happened was, extremists and terrorists used this as an excuse to attack a variety of our embassies, including the one, the consulate in Libya.”
September 20, Univision: President Obama says “we’re still doing an investigation”
UNIVISION: “We have reports that the White House said today that the attacks in Libya were a terrorist attack. Do you have information indicating that it was Iran, or al Qaeda was behind organizing the protests?”
OBAMA: “Well, we're still doing an investigation, and there are going to be different circumstances in different countries. And so I don’t want to speak to something until we have all the information. What we do know is that the natural protests that arose because of the outrage over the video were used as an excuse by extremists to see if they can also directly harm U.S. interests...”
September 24, “The View:” President Obama says “we’re still doing an investigation”
JOY BEHAR: "It was reported that people just went crazy and wild because of this anti-Muslim movie, or anti-Muhammad, I guess, movie. But then I heard Hillary Clinton say that it was an act of terrorism. Is it? What do you say?"
OBAMA: "Well, we’re still doing an investigation. There’s no doubt that the kind of weapons that were used, the ongoing assault, that it wasn’t just a mob action. Now, we don’t have all the information yet, so we’re still gathering it. But what’s clear is that around the world, there’s still a lot of threats out there. That’s why we have to maintain the strongest military in the world, that’s why we can’t let down our guard when it comes to the intelligence work that we do and staying on top of — not just al Qaeda, the traditional al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan..."
September 25, President Obama to United Nations: “A crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world…”
OBAMA: "That is what we saw play out in the last two weeks, as a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world. Now, I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity. ... And on this we must agree: There is no speech that justifies mindless violence. There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents. There's no video that justifies an attack on an embassy."
May 08 2013
Tate Zeigler (202-224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)
WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) released a letter they sent to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel requesting confirmation of the rights of members of the armed services to practice and share their faith. The letter is a response to recent media reports indicating potential changes to military regulations governing the discussion of religion by members of the military.
"Policies that prohibit the discussion of religious matters by military members, " they write, "could create a chilling effect on members of the armed services of any faith and have an adverse effect on recruitment and retention efforts and the morale of our troops."
The full text of the letter is available here.
May 01 2013
Tate Zeigler (202-224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)We again request your Administration immediately provide the names of the Benghazi survivors to Congress so we can conduct interviews to gain a clearer understanding of what happened before, during, and after the attack.
Apr 30 2013
Tate Zeigler (202-224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)
Washington – U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) today released the following statement on President Obama’s remarks on Syria at his press conference this morning:
“In explaining his Syria policy today, President Obama was forced to defend the indefensible. It is true that the Administration has not done ‘nothing’ in Syria. But it is also impossible to escape the reality that nothing it has done has been sufficient to end this conflict. As a result, our national security interests and the safety of our friends and allies in the region are in growing danger.
“The uncertainty and ambiguity of our policy towards Syria has contributed to our current crisis. By drawing a ‘red line’ on chemical weapons, the President actually gave Assad a green light to use every other weapon in his arsenal with impunity. Tens of thousands of Syrian civilians have been killed indiscriminately with artillery, helicopter gunships, fighter jets, and SCUD missiles. Now Assad has crossed the President’s red line. The credibility of the United States is on the line, not just with Syria, but with Iran, North Korea, and all of our enemies and friends who are watching closely to see whether the President backs up his words with action. Unfortunately, the red line has been blurred with each passing day. It will not be long before Assad takes this delay as an invitation to use chemical weapons again on an even larger scale. Both the humanitarian and strategic consequences that will result from such an act are horrific: It will further destabilize Syria, which is at great risk of becoming a failed state and a safe haven for Al Qaeda.
“Rather than continue with this reactive approach, and outsource the initiative for U.S. policy to Assad, the President needs to lead. He needs to articulate exactly what outcome in Syria would best serve America’s national security interests, what strategy is required to achieve that goal, and what means we need to employ together with our friends and allies to achieve success. There are many options at our disposal, including military options short of boots on the ground in Syria, that can make a positive impact on this crisis, which is destabilizing the region. The President must act now or risk squandering U.S. credibility in Syria and around the world.”
Apr 30 2013
Tate Zeigler (202-224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), John McCain (R-Arizona) and Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire) today renewed their call for Senate leadership to appoint a joint select committee to investigate the Obama Administration’s handling before, during, and after the September 11, 2012 attack in Benghazi:
“We are once again calling on our Senate leadership to appoint a joint select committee to investigate the terror attacks on Benghazi.
“Revelations about witnesses being afraid to testify and military assets that could have been deployed in a timely fashion justify appointing a joint select committee.
“In light of these new revelations it is imperative that we learn everything we can from what happened before, during and after the attacks. We cannot allow those who serve our nation to feel abandoned when under attack, or by Congress afterwards.
“A joint select committee is the most appropriate way to get to the bottom of what happened in Benghazi.
“As with any investigation, the longer we delay, the harder it is to find the truth. We have already waited too long.
“We urge Senate leadership to act immediately to set up this joint select committee.”
Apr 30 2013
Tate Zeigler (202-224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)With all due respect Mr. President, Benghazi and Boston are compelling examples of how our national security systems have deteriorated on your watch.
Apr 20 2013
Tate Zeigler (202-224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)It is clear the events we have seen over the past few days in Boston were an attempt to kill American citizens and terrorize a major American city. The suspect, based upon his actions, clearly is a good candidate for enemy combatant status. We do not want this suspect to remain silent.
Apr 19 2013
Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)
WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and John McCain (R-Arizona) tonight made the following statement.
“We truly appreciate the hard work and dedication of our law enforcement and intelligence communities.
"It is clear the events we have seen over the past few days in Boston were an attempt to kill American citizens and terrorize a major American city. The accused perpetrators of these acts were not common criminals attempting to profit from a criminal enterprise, but terrorist trying to injure, maim, and kill innocent Americans.
"Now that the suspect is in custody, the last thing we should want is for him to remain silent. It is absolutely vital the suspect be questioned for intelligence gathering purposes. We need to know about any possible future attacks which could take additional American lives. The least of our worries is a criminal trial which will likely be held years from now.
"Under the Law of War we can hold this suspect as a potential enemy combatant not entitled to Miranda warnings or the appointment of counsel. Our goal at this critical juncture should be to gather intelligence and protect our nation from further attacks.
"We remain under threat from radical Islam and we hope the Obama Administration will seriously consider the enemy combatant option.“We will stand behind the Administration if they decide to hold this suspect as an enemy combatant.”