The Citizens Advisory Board for the Savannah River Site is waiting for a response from its letter outlining budget priorities for the coming year.
Topping the list is cleanup of liquid radioactive waste on the site. Complying with South Carolina and federal laws regarding its disposal is the board’s highest concern.
SRS officials have until month’s end to formally respond, but a spokesman said the recommendations will be taken seriously.
The letter, signed by board chairman Harold Simon, is addressed to David Moody, the U.S. Department of Energy’s site manager. It’s dated March 24, the day the board voted on it during a bimonthly meeting in Augusta.
“As in the past, the high-level liquid-waste-management program remains our highest priority,” the letter said. “The budget request for Fiscal Year 2017 (sic) should reflect this priority and should be at a level that guarantees compliance with all state and federal agreements so that all high-level-waste-storage tanks are empty by 2028, per the Site Treatment Plan.”
Simon warned that the board would closely monitor the formulation of the budget with the liquid waste in mind.
“Any funding short of this would be a great concern to us,” he warned.
The 25-member board is made up of citizens from Aiken, Augusta and surrounding communities. Many either work at or are retired from SRS and are familiar with the environmental and economic issues at the federal facility.
The Energy Department draws on the board’s input when drafting its budget requests to Washington, according to James Giusti, director of external affairs at SRS for the Energy Department.
“The department earlier this year asked the SRS CAB to review our integrated priority list (IPL) for the Fiscal Year 2018 budget and provide us its recommendations,” he said. “The letter approved last month by the board reaffirms IPL and what the board believes are the funding priorities at SRS. The board’s input will be used by SRS and the Office of Environmental Management in the budget formulation currently underway.”
Beyond the liquid waste, the board’s other priorities, in order, are nuclear materials stabilization and disposition, spent nuclear fuel, soil and water remediation, solid-waste stabilization and disposition, security and Savannah River community support.
While the department begins looking at its requests for the next fiscal year, Congress is still weighing what to appropriate for the current one. A major issue is whether to continue construction of a mixed-oxide, or MOX, processing facility or mothballing it as the Obama administration recommends.
There’s no timetable on when Congress may decide.