The U.S. Energy Department has halted its plan to conduct an Environmental Assessment involving the proposed lease of 2,700 acres at Savannah River Site for an energy park.
The assessment was to be the first step in the process of determining the suitability of allowing the SRS Community Reuse Organization to use the land for economic development purposes that critics fear could bring additional nuclear waste to South Carolina.
Jim Giusti, a DOE spokesman at the site, said halting the assessment will allow time for more dialogue and discussion before any binding decisions are made.
Were going to reset the clock, and first start it with public discussions about what an energy park is, and what it would look like, and what the stakeholders have to say about something like this, he said.
The department has scheduled a workshop from 1 to 5 p.m. Tuesday at the North Augusta Municipal Center to discuss the concepts and objectives of such a project.
With so many unanswered questions, the planned environmental assessment would be better conducted later, Mr. Giusti said. It makes no sense to proceed with a document when we dont have enough information to do an environmental study at this point.
The assessment is part of the process required under the National Environmental Policy Act and would help determine whether a full environmental impact statement is needed.
Tom Clements, the Southeast campaign director for Friends of the Earth, complained in a June 21 letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu that more public involvement and transparency were needed in discussions about the project.
The community reuse organizations proposal lists a host of potential uses, including nuclear waste processing. Mr. Clements said much more needs to be known about the plans for the property before the Energy Department could relinquish it for other purposes.
Mr. Giusti said such questions are likely topics for Tuesday's workshop.
Part of the idea of the workshop is to let everyone know what our concept of an energy park is, to take questions and answers and to take stakeholder input. From there we will move forward to the next phase and come up with a document people can comment on, he said.