Savannah River Site’s stimulus-funded workforce has begun to shrink as the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act enters its final 11 months.
“A lot of these folks were brought here through subcontractors, and they were assigned to specific projects that may have ended,” said Rick McLeod, executive director of the SRS Community Reuse Organization – an economic development group working with the U.S. Energy Department on worker transition plans.
The site created almost 3,000 short-term jobs with a $1.6 billion windfall that was to be spent by next September.
The money was allocated to projects such as decommissioning two defunct reactors, packing and shipping of nuclear waste, demolishing an old cooling tower and the removal of obsolete buildings and facilities.
Employment through the program peaked in April, when the site’s contractor – Savannah River Nuclear Solutions – had about 2,200 stimulus workers onsite.
Since then, however, the number has fallen by about 900 to a current stimulus-funded workforce of about 1,300 and the decline will continue into next year.
Completed projects include the K Area cooling tower demolition, a $9 million project that temporarily employed 75 workers. The $1.4 million demolition of a small arms training center and the removal and cleanup of buildings in M Area have also been completed.
Major projects that remain under way include grouting in P and R reactors, a $185 million project; a $25 million cleanup project in the P Area ash basin; treatment of soil contaminated with tritium; and a major transuranic waste disposition project that will cost about $350 million.
As the remaining projects are completed, the number of workers will fluctuate, said Jim Giusti, an Energy Department spokesman at the site, who added that a few projects may not be finished until early 2012.
“Due to the short-term nature of job creation under the Recovery Act, and the anticipated completion of certain cleanup activities at the site, the Department of Energy expects a decrease in the number of workers employed at SRS for cleanup between now and 2012,” he said. “However, no final decision about timing or the numbers has been made.”
Although large numbers of workers were brought to the area for temporary jobs that will end, their experience at the site will help them find other positions, McLeod said.
“There will be a lot of construction jobs in this area, and also professional and technician type jobs,” he said. “One thing that will help these workers is that – as Recovery Act workers – they have been introduced to the nuclear culture, with its fitness for duty and safety requirements. It provides them a step up on other folks who may not already have that initial foundation.”
The Community Reuse Organization will help with a transition plan the Energy Department hopes to have available in coming months. “We don’t know the specifics right now, and may not know for several months,” McLeod said. “But we’re committed and working with DOE and the site complex for whatever transition plans we can come up with.”
Savannah River Site’s $1.615 billion allocation was the second-largest among 18 Energy Department facilities that shared $6 billion in stimulus funds. Hanford in Richland, Wash., received $1.633 billion.
Reach Rob Pavey at (706) 868-1222, ext. 119 or firstname.lastname@example.org.