Stimulus could add 3,000 SRS jobs

A $1.615 billion windfall from President Obama's economic stimulus package will enable Savannah River Site to create as many as 3,000 jobs and accelerate environmental cleanup projects.

 

U.S. Energy Secretary Stephen Chu announced $6 billion in appropriations Tuesday for nuclear materials sites in 12 states. SRS is second only to the Hanford Site in Washington in funding and jobs.

"Right now we feel this will create up to about 3,000 jobs, and that number will be better defined once we begin to mobilize the contracts for the work," said Jim Giusti, an Energy Department spokesman at SRS.

The majority of the new jobs, he said, will be with contractors chosen to complete specific projects funded with stimulus money. A Web site with information on how to pursue those jobs will be available soon, he said.

Cleanup and decommissioning projects to be funded by the stimulus had already been identified and planned and will simply be carried out sooner than expected.

"The whole part of the Recovery Act is that they needed shovel-ready projects," Mr. Giusti said. "You had to be able to see a work scope and pull it forward and get funding and execute it in the 30 months we have for this program."

Most new jobs would be for the duration of the program, which runs through 2011, he said. "Beyond that, we cannot speculate."

Though the cleanup projects might not be permanent, completing such tasks earlier could create opportunities for reinvestment and new missions sooner than anticipated.

One project under way involves creating an Energy Park to attract more permanent jobs to the area, said Rick Toole, the chairman of the SRS Community Reuse Organization. He said none of the money is targeted for the Energy Park, but he hopes it will help with "more lasting job creation."

Major pending projects to be accelerated with stimulus money include decommissioning two nuclear material production reactors.

P-reactor is shut down and deactivation work is under way, Mr. Giusti said. "That work will now be accelerated."

R-reactor will also be decommissioned. "The plan is to gut portions of it and concrete the bottom base of it in several layers and leave its outer structure intact," he said.

P and R are among five heavy water reactors that once produced material for the nation's nuclear arsenal. K-reactor has been turned into a plutonium storage facility, L-reactor is now used to store spent fuel and C-reactor is shut down and waiting its turn at decommissioning.

Other cleanup programs include shipping more than 4,500 cubic meters of waste out of South Carolina and reducing the site's industrial area by 40 percent, or 79,000 acres, by September 2011, Dr. Chu said in a news release Tuesday.

"These investments will put Americans to work while cleaning up contamination from the Cold War era," he said. "It reflects our commitment to future generations as well as to help local economies get moving again."

Current employment at SRS is about 11,000, which includes about 6,000 workers under the main contractor, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions.

Reach Rob Pavey at (706) 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.

OTHER ALLOCATIONS

- Hanford Site, Wash., $1.635 billion

- Oak Ridge, Tenn., $755 million

- Office of River Protection, Wash., $326 million

- Idaho National Laboratory, $468 million

- Los Alamos National Laboratory, N.M., $172 million

- Brookhaven and West Valley, N.Y., $148 million

- Miamisburg and Portsmouth, Ohio, $138 million

- Moab, Utah, $108 million

- Argonne National Laboratory, Ill., $99 million

- Paducah, Ky., $79 million

- Sites in California, $62 million

- Nevada Test Site, $44 million

- Headquarters and oversight, $70 million

- Various other programs, $69 million