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Savannah River Remediation lays off 465 workers Thursday

Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013 10:37 AM
Last updated Friday, Sept. 13, 2013 1:05 AM
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Savannah River Remedi­ation laid off 465 employees Thursday as part of a workforce restructuring linked to “continuing fiscal challenges” at Savannah River Site.

“I regret that we have to take this step, but I encourage you to avoid the distractions that these workforce changes can cause,” said interim SRR president Stuart MacVean, in a memo to employees.

The company, whose workforce will shrink from 2,165 to about 1,700 employees, manages the U.S. Energy Department site’s radioactive waste programs, including underground storage tanks, saltstone processing and the Defense Waste Processing Facility.

The possibility of layoffs emerged July 8, when the Energy Department, citing fiscal 2014 budget cuts, announced it was preparing a “workforce restructuring plan” designed to lessen the impact of potential layoffs to contractor employees and the surrounding community.

Under the plan, the department would provide assistance to displaced workers, policies for retraining and rehiring and outplacement services to help workers find new jobs.

In Thursday’s memo, MacVean said affected employees will receive two weeks’ pay in lieu of notice and a severance payment equal to one week’s pay for each full year of service up to a maximum of 26 weeks. Their last day on the staffing rolls will be Sept. 27.

The site’s radioactive waste program is already under fire from officials in South Carolina, who say cleanup efforts continue to lag father behind schedule.

In an Aug. 28 letter, South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control Director Catherine Templeton warned Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz that budget cuts will further slow progress at SRS and could trigger $154 million in fines for violating its agreements with state regulators.

The site’s liquid waste, stored in underground tanks, poses “the single largest environmental threat in South Carolina,” Templeton wrote, adding that state officials will not extend cleanup deadlines to accommodate federal budget cuts.

“DHEC will not restructure these agreements simply because DOE decides to fund other sites instead of SRS,” she wrote, noting that SRS took the largest share of environmental management budget cuts.

“It simply makes more sense to invest in the site now than put off the work and pay penalties in the future,” she wrote.

Although some tanks at the site have been closed, at least eight of the remaining tanks are partially or completely submerged in groundwater and could become much more dangerous in the future.

“Present action can prevent future crisis, but the time to act is now,” she wrote.

Savannah River Remedi­ation has been the site’s liquid waste contractor since 2009 and is comprised of a team of companies led by URS Corp. with partners Bechtel National, CH2M Hill and Babcock & Wilcox.

Although unrelated to the restructuring plan, the threat of layoffs also looms for workers at the National Nuclear Security Administration’s mixed oxide fuel facility, where surplus plutonium would be blended into commercial reactor fuel.

Congress is reviewing the administration’s proposal to scale back work on the project, which is 60 percent complete, while less expensive options are studied.

If proposed cuts are adopted, workforce reductions could be necessary within Shaw Areva MOX Services, the contractor on the MOX project, which has about 2,100 employees at the site.

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bdouglas 09/12/13 - 01:05 pm
Funny how the ones in charge

Funny how the ones in charge always want you to "avoid the distractions that these workforce changes can cause" when their jobs are never the ones in danger and they have no worry of where their next paycheck might come from. They're not worrying when their manager is going to come find them with a cardboard box for their belongings, tap them on the shoulder and say it's time to go. Real easy to avoid those "distractions"...

SCEagle Eye
SCEagle Eye 09/12/13 - 01:29 pm
reverse priorities

Funding nuclear waste clean-up should be the most important thing at SRS and, given the risks, most agree on that. But, what happens in this topsy turvy world driven by politics? The essential clean-up mission gets whacked and the non-essential ones like MOX remain at the top of the heap pulling down vast amounts of money. Lesson from DOE: those projects that under perform and have lost the mission focus - like MOX - get rewarded while key missions are subject to taking a hit.

I'm Back Again
I'm Back Again 09/12/13 - 02:25 pm
Thanks Obama. Another one

Thanks Obama. Another one bites the dust under your watch!

Humble Angela
Humble Angela 09/12/13 - 03:37 pm
MOX may not be essential, but

MOX may not be essential, but it is important. Too bad it is mismanaged.

scoopdedoop64 09/12/13 - 05:53 pm
Agree with Bdouglas

I totally agree. I hate it when they come in cutting jobs and benefits and tell you not to let it "distract your work". What do they think people are: Robots with no feelings? Yeah, I guess they do. too bad they can't cut the jobs which are really costing the most like everytime Obama wants to fly around in Air Force One for a vacation.

Radwaste 09/12/13 - 08:49 pm
Hate the guy in charge?

Take his job. It oughta be easy, the job is so simple, right?
Of course not. I work out there. I've been reassigned - my work of 9 years is at risk of being lost - but the culprit is Federal funding.
YOUR CONGRESS makes contract like SRR's an annual struggle, which just doesn't reward anything but projects with priority - and then, because the workforce is pretty expensive per vote, it's easy for a Congressman to think the $$ can go elsewhere, someplace more popular with the public. Like Cash for Clunkers, which cost taxpayers quite a bit.
But. Go take Stuart McVean's job (I think he's pretty safe from you). No matter who is in charge, the advice to stay focused must be heeded.

bdouglas 09/12/13 - 10:12 pm

I never said his job was simple, nor do I think I could do his job. I'm saying the idea of asking people to "avoid the distractions" of layoffs is, in general, a ridiculous thing to say to your employees in ANY job where this stuff is happening. Sure, I'd keep doing my job (and I did last year before I got laid off from there), but to suggest that it shouldn't bother them is crazy. A mortgage, mouths to feed, school to pay for...pretty sure those things weigh heavily on peoples' mind no matter how many times someone not in danger of losing their job tells them not to worry about it.

wildman 09/13/13 - 06:26 am

S. Macvean did not cause this problem. He is simply the talking head for a group of people. Congress and the Preident are the ones to blame. No Budget in over 4 years, its ridicioulus that we continue to work off of a continuing resolution in his 5th year as President. Don't worry, this is not over. Today it's MOX and SRR tomorrow it's SRNS. This makes no sense. Do more with less but do it and not be distracted. NO one wants to get hurt while working but it's impossible to stay focused under these conditions. Good luck to those that survive the furloughs and layoffs and God Bless everyone.

jimmymac 09/13/13 - 08:17 am

This latest round of layoffs at Savannah River will cause a rippling effect through out the CSRA. Several thousand great paying jobs have been lost due to Obama and the dems refusing to put forth a budget every year since he came into office. News reporters have largely given Obama and his band of bunglers a free pass on this. Too bad we can't layoff him and the rest off his crew.

Riverman1 09/13/13 - 11:07 am
Macvean could have worded

Macvean could have worded things much better.

sawgrass 09/13/13 - 11:46 am

Why do you think the MOX project is non essential? This project has a two fold mission. Number one-it will rid the world of weapons grade plutonium. Number two-it will convert the plutonium to usable nuclear fuel, a process which will actually make a profit for the DOE. That's non essential? MOX will pay for itself over the life of the project.

stampman79 09/13/13 - 01:50 pm
The managers out there love

The managers out there love to make patronizing remarks when people are being laid off. When they let me go years ago, my manager said it might be a positive thing that would lead to another opportunity elsewhere. Of course he or any of his manager cronies weren't being laid off. I haven't found the opportunity elsewhere because few employers want to hire mid-career workers when they can get someone straight out of college cheaper.

bubbasauce 09/13/13 - 01:51 pm
Sawgrass, sometimes it is

Sawgrass, sometimes it is hard to explain something that makes sense. Most people just don't get it. Does this mean salt Waste Processing Facility will be cut also?

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