Savannah River Site could get nearly 2,000 pounds of plutonium for storage



Savannah River Site appears set to receive nearly 2,000 pounds of plutonium from foreign countries for “storage and process pending final disposition,” according to documents released by the Department of Energy.

According to the “Finding of No Significant Impact” document, the National Nuclear Security Administration has decided to move forward with transport of up to 1,984 pounds of plutonium to Joint Base Charleston.

The material would then be carried in “specially designed transporters” to SRS, where it will it be repackaged to meet storage requirements – some of it stabilized – before being moved to the storage area, according to the document.

“The potential environmental impact associated with the transport, storage and processing of the gap material plutonium entail minor impacts and low risks, and do not constitute a major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment,” the document said.

Gap material plutonium is “separated weapons-usable plutonium currently located in foreign countries and poses a threat to national security; presents a high risk of terrorist threat; has no other reasonable pathway to assure security from theft or diversion; and meets the acceptance criteria of the storage facility at the Savanah River Site,” NNSA Press Secretary Francie Israeli said.

Though the finding document doesn’t state where the material comes from, Tom Clements, director of the nuclear watchdog group SRS Watch, said a document from the NNSA, detailing the Global Threat Reduction Initiative Removal Program, indicates that materials could come from Japan and some European countries, including the United Kingdom, which he said should raise some eyebrows.

“I consider it nuclear dumping,” he said. “I don’t argue that there is some security and nuclear proliferation risks with this material and that some of it needs to come here, but not material originating from a nuclear weapons state like the UK.”

Clements also contends that the environmental assessment, which was also posted on the Department of Energy’s Web site Monday, was done in “secret” and didn’t allow for public comment. According to the finding document, a draft of the assessment was sent to South Carolina and Georgia, soliciting their comments during a 15-day review period. The South Carolina Nuclear Advisory Council provided input, though no changes were made to the proposal.

Georgia did not return comment.

“It’s a real concern that they’ve totally cut the public out of the loop in this process,” he said. “I think the public should have had an opportunity to comment, and I think there should have at least been one public meeting in the Aiken-Augusta area.”

The environmental assessment attempted to measure the impact for up to 12 total shipments, though no time line was provided as to when those would take place.

“The details associated with removal activities are classified, and therefore are not included in the (environmental assessment),” Israeli said.

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