SRS program might be curtailed

Safety board's report warns of financial impacts on L-Area and H-Area

  • Follow Metro

An important U.S. program to recover foreign nuclear material and store it at Savannah River Site could be cut back under a series of budget changes anticipated in fiscal year 2011, according to a federal oversight committee.

The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, in a Nov. 5 report that followed a budget discussion with site officials, warned of financial impacts to both L-Area -- where domestic and foreign spent fuel is stored -- and H-Area, the only hardened nuclear chemical separations plant still in operation in the U.S.

"If a funding realignment is not approved, L-Area activities could be severely curtailed," the board's report said. "This could dramatically impact shipments of fuel from L-to-H Areas and discontinue receipts of foreign and domestic research reactor fuel."

L-Area is where much of the spent fuel from foreign reactors is stored in the U.S. to prevent its exploitation by terrorists in unsecured areas overseas.

H Canyon, built in the 1950s for nuclear weapons material production, is used today to transform weapons-grade, highly enriched uranium to low enriched uranium suitable for use in commercial power reactors, not weapons.

Jim Giusti, a U.S. Department of Energy spokesman, said the programs -- and other SRS functions -- do not yet have an approved fiscal 2011 budget from Congress and are operating under a continuing resolution, which temporarily funds the government agencies at existing or reduced levels until a formal budget can be approved.

"We do expect the continuing resolution to be resolved in February," he said. "We are assuming that Congress will approve funding flexibility needed to support continuing operations which include receipts of foreign and domestic research reactor fuel."

SRS is one of two U.S. locations where spent foreign fuel can be stored. Based on environmental impact studies, fuel rods clad in aluminum come to SRS and those sheathed in stainless steel go to the Energy Department's storage facility in Idaho.

Even after the fiscal 2011 budget is negotiated, SRS is likely to feel further effects in fiscal 2012, when funding could decrease by 5 percent under an edict from the Obama administration.

The site is also downsizing its work force through the elimination of about 1,400 positions under a plan announced last month by Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, the site's primary contractor.

Reach Rob Pavey at (706) 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.

Get all the facts

ON L-AREA AND SRS NUCLEAR WASTE PROGRAM: www.srs.gov/general/news/factsheets/snf.pdf

ON H CANYON AND ITS ROLE: www.srs.gov/general/news/factsheets/hc.pdf

Comments (1) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
SCEagle Eye
910
Points
SCEagle Eye 12/01/10 - 12:26 pm
0
0
A halt to reprocessing of

A halt to reprocessing of this spent fuel is a good idea from a cost and environmental perspective. It's time to focus on non-reprocessing options like continued pool storage in the short-term and then storage in dry casks.

Back to Top

Top headlines

Paine president resigns

George C. Bradley resigned as president of the embattled Paine College on Tuesday as the institution continues efforts to maintain its accreditation after several years of financial mismanagement ...
Search Augusta jobs