Savannah River Site moved forward with the possibility of shipping highly-radioactive nuclear waste from Germany to South Carolina by agreeing Thursday to study the environmental impact of the proposal.
The U.S. Department of Energy signed a notice of intent to prepare a German-funded environmental assessment on shipping used nuclear fuel containing 900 kilograms of highly-enriched uranium to SRS where it would be processed and disposed.
A public meeting will be held June 24 at the North Augusta Community Center.
The H-Canyon facilities at SRS would be modified to remove thousands of small graphite spheres containing the uranium using new technology being developed at Savannah River National Laboratory.
The energy department says a final decision hasn’t been made, but it’s trying to return U.S.-origin waste to protect national security.
“By removing U.S.-origin (highly-enriched uranium) from Germany and returning it to the United States for safe disposition, DOE could render it unusable in a nuclear weapon or an improvised nuclear material dispersal device,” the energy department said in a Thursday e-mail to SRS stakeholders.
In April, the energy department signed a separate agreement with German research facilities offering to evaluate accepting, processing and disposing of the waste at SRS, an important step forward for the project.
Additional shipments of waste at SRS have drawn criticism from environmentalist Tom Clements, director of watchdog group SRS Watch. Germans are opposing the waste shipments, which would travel through European ports, and similar opposition is mounting in the U.S., Clements said.
“I think public and government entities will be lined up against this, mainly the state of South Carolina and the SRS Citizens Advisory Board,” he said. “SRS doesn’t need any more additional waste. The site is already under great strain to manage the existing waste.”