The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last week voted 21-1 to approve the nomination of Dr. Ernest Moniz to be Secretary of Energy. Moniz, a physicist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is expected to win full Senate approval this week—with some minor hurdles.

On Tuesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) blocked a vote on the nomination of Moniz, citing proposed DOE funding cuts to a mixed oxide fuel plant being built at the Savannah River nuclear site in his home state. Last week at the Senate Energy Committee, South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott cast the only dissenting vote, citing similar opposition to the funding cuts for the nuclear reprocessing facility.

President Obama’s DOE budget requested $503 million in fiscal year 2014, down from $667 million in 2012, for the South Carolina plant being developed by an AREVA-led consortium that will convert weapons-grade plutonium into fuel for nuclear power plants. The proposed budget says that the "current plutonium disposition approach may be unaffordable, though, due to cost growth and fiscal pressure. While the Administration will assess the feasibility of alternative plutonium disposition strategies, resulting in a slowdown of MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility construction in 2014, it is nonetheless committed to the overarching goals of the plutonium disposition program."

Monday, meanwhile, was the final day of Steven Chu’s service as energy secretary, making him the longest-serving secretary in DOE history. In a blog looking back at Chu’s time at the DOE, the agency said the Nobel Prize–winning physicist had provided "remarkable leadership in pursuing both President Obama’s nuclear security agenda as well as an all-of-the-above approach to energy that invests in clean energy, reduces our dependence on foreign oil, addresses the global climate crisis, and supports the clean energy jobs of the future."

Sources: POWERnews, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, DOE

NOTE: This story was originally published on April 24