A contractor which provides radioactive waste services to the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) is laying off 465 employees at the Savannah River Site (SRS) in Aiken County, South Carolina. And that could be a prelude to much bigger layoffs in the near future …

According to an internal memo obtained by The Augusta Chronicle, Savannah River Remedi­ation blamed the layoffs on “continuing fiscal challenges” at SRS.

Those challenges are likely to continue. Back in March, more than 2,000 SRS employees were furloughed – ostensibly as a result of federal budget cuts. These employees may soon lose their jobs, too, although with thousands of other contract employees on the facility’s “mixed oxide fuel” (MOX) project.

After spending untold hundreds of millions of dollars (including $500 million this year) on a plan to turn weapons grade plutonium into fuel for nuclear reactors, the federal government is now on the verge of abandoning the MOX program – which is 60 percent complete.

Plagued by cost overruns, the facility was supposed to have been completed in 2007 at a cost of $1.6 billion to taxpayers.

That didn’t happen, though.

“Today the plant’s completion is expected in 2019 at a cost of $7.7 billion, plus annual operation costs of approximately $500 million, up from an estimated $156 million in just 2010,” a taxpayer watchdog group noted in April.

But will the project ever be completed? It’s not looking likely. U.S. President Barack Obama is scaling back funding for the program and has expressed doubts regarding its viability and affordability – even as he pumped another half-billion into it in his most recent budget.

Crazy, huh?

South Carolina should expect to see major job losses coming out of the Savannah River Site in the coming months. Meanwhile taxpayers should expect to eat another multi-billion dollar bill.