Although sequestration could impact every federal agency, the potential across-the-board budget reduction would cause widespread furloughs throughout the U.S. Department of Energy, including Savannah River Site, according to a new report on the economic risks of the budget cuts.
“Significant furloughs of the Defense Environmental Management contractor workforce would range from weeks to months,” said the Feb. 13 report by House Appropriations Committee Democrats.
The impact at SRS would fall mainly on environmental management and nuclear waste cleanup programs and cause the furlough of more than 1,000 workers for about four months, the report said.
Potential consequences at SRS could include suspension of plutonium processing at H Canyon, further delays in the disposition of liquid waste in underground tanks and a halt to radioactive waste shipments from South Carolina to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.
Other Energy Department sites associated with the nation’s nuclear weapons programs would face similar impacts.
“The Hanford site in Washington State would furlough over 1,000 workers for approximately six weeks,” the report said, “and 4,000 to 5,000 workers schedules would be affected across the complex. Sites will be forced to suspend and/or delay cleanup activities and shutdown facilities.”
Sequestration would also require the Y-12 site in Tennessee to furlough 700 to 1,000 of 4,500 employees for up to 6 months, the report said, while the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, would furlough up to 2,500 employees for three weeks.
Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico would furlough more than 500 workers for about two week and Sandia National Labs will lay off up to 100 positions and hold off on hiring staff to support a new program to extend the life of the B-61 bomb.
The issue revolves around a March 1 deadline to resolve a Congressional budget stalemate. Unless Congress acts, the Office of Management and Budget will sequester $85 billion in fiscal 2013 spending as mandated by the Budget Control Act.
Sequestration, if triggered, comes on top of $1.5 trillion in discretionary cuts already enacted, the report said.