Plan would change SRS

Kendrick Brinson/Staff
John Lindsey (from left), Elaine Cooper and Michael Berg of No Nukes Y'all, based in Columbia, are circled by Atlanta students protesting federal plans to retool the Savannah River Site.

NORTH AUGUSTA --- A federal agency unveiled a proposal Thursday that could transform the nation's nuclear weapons infrastructure and lead to the consolidation of tritium research at Savannah River Site.

 

During a town hall meeting at North Augusta Community Center, officials with the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration said the Complex Transformation plan would consolidate nuclear assets, and make the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile smaller, "safer, more secure and more responsive" to future national security needs.

Ted Wyka, an NNSA official leading the project, said the current weapons complex is too old and costly to maintain. The NNSA is the agency responsible for the security and upkeep of the nation's nuclear arsenal.

The plan contains several contingencies, from a complete overhaul of the government's nuclear infrastructure -- including producing new warheads to replace aging weapons systems, to leaving the nation's nuclear platform as is.

Under the plan, improvements in the arsenal would eventually lead to a net loss of warheads when aging weapons are dismantled.

One proposal calls for tritium production, research and development missions to move from Los Alamos National Laboratories in New Mexico to SRS. Because of attrition and reassignments, SRS would see a 5 percent reduction in staff supporting nuclear weapons activities over a decade, according to the plan.

Critics said the transformation plan would violate the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, make the United States less safe and pose threats to the environment and public health.

Tom Clements, Southeast Nuclear Campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth, said his group favors cleanup of nuclear wastes at SRS, but opposes any expansion of nuclear weapons research and development there.

"They basically want to rebuild all nuclear weapons and prepare the complex to build new nuclear weapons," Mr. Clements said. "And we think this is a violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and we think we should abide by the treaty and abide by disarmament."

Early in the day, protesters at the community center included children holding signs that read "No new nukes" and people dressed as pigs carrying signs that said, "Oink if you love nuclear pork."

The public comment period ends April 10, and revisions will be announced in August. A decision is to be made this fall.

Reach J. Scott Trubey at (706) 823-3424 or scott.trubey@augustachronicle.com.

WHAT'S NEXT?

The National Nuclear Security Administration will hold another 18 public hearings near federal nuclear sites around the country before the public comment period ends April 10. Revisions to the Complex Transformation plan will be announced in August with a final decision to be made in the fall. Changes to the nation's nuclear weapons complex would occur over the course of at least 10 years, officials said.


LEARN MORE

Those not able to attend the town hall meeting can request information or express their opinions several ways: FAX: (703) 931-9222; E-MAIL: complextransformation @nnsa.doe.gov ONLINE: www.complex transformationspeis.com.

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