With late-stage design activities underfunded for most of the first quarter of fiscal year 2021, the Department of Energy is passing around the hat for a planned pit-production plant to be built from the remains of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina an agency official said Friday. 

“We’re working with the program office to get a stable funding source,” Scott Cannon, the DoE National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) director of project management at the Savannah River Site, and the federal project director for the planned, pit-producing Savannah River Plutonium Processing Facility (SRPPF), told the South Carolina Governor’s Nuclear Advisory Council.

The short-term stopgap budget that went into effect at the Oct. 1 start of the 2021 federal fiscal year holds the SRPPF budget to about $410 million, compared with more than $442 million as requested — much less of a gap than some programs face under the so-called continuing resolution, but still 7% less than what the agency sought as part of its top-priority pit-infrastructure buildout.

In Friday’s webcast presentation, Cannon told the advisory group that SRPPF remains on track for the deputy secretary of energy to sign off on a critical decision 1 review — the project management milestone where the Department of Energy officially makes the decision to build SRPPF out of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility official — on or around April 1. The final draft of the critical decision 1 package will be finished around December, Cannon said.

Between now and then, Cannon said, the project will work on a preliminary cost and schedule analysis that will winnow the projects scope down to a range of time and dollars by critical decision 1. In parallel, the NNSA’s Office of Cost Estimating and Program Evaluation will produce a cost estimate independently from the SRPPF project. The independent review should be finished around January, Cannon said.

SRPPF construction should start around fiscal year 2024, Cannon said.