SRS reaches spending mark

The U.S. Department of Energy's scramble to spend Savannah River Site's $1.6 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act allocation by September passed the $1 billion mark last week, according to SRS officials.

The funding was designed to accelerate environmental cleanup programs that otherwise would have taken up to six years longer to complete, while creating about 3,000 mostly temporary jobs at the site.

Jim Giusti, a DOE spokesman, said most of the remaining $600 million will be spent by the time the stimulus program expires this fall, with the possible exception of the transuranic waste project, which involves packaging and shipping nuclear waste to a disposal site in New Mexico. That program could continue through fiscal year 2012.

The work financed by the extra money was already in the planning stage, but completing those cleanup efforts earlier has helped reduce the site's footprint by 122 square miles through closing, cleaning up or consolidating facilities into smaller areas.

The eventual goal is to reduce the footprint by 75 percent, or 233 square miles, Giusti said.

The projects that received stimulus funding included decommissioning two defunct reactors, packing and shipping of nuclear waste, demolishing an old cooling tower and removing obsolete buildings and facilities.

Employment through the program peaked last April, when the site's contractor -- Savannah River Nuclear Solutions -- had about 2,200 stimulus workers on the site. The number has since declined.

Giusti said that most of the jobs created by the program are not permanent.

"We had two categories of people under Recovery Act: jobs created, and jobs saved," he said. "Most jobs were temporary and not part of the regular contracts at SRS."

In recent months, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions was given DOE clearance to reduce its work force by as many as 1,400 positions by this fall.

So far, 328 employees have volunteered to leave and 342 more were affected by layoffs implemented last week. As many as 730 additional layoffs could occur by September.

Giusti said those cuts are mostly unrelated to the departures created by the completion of Recovery Act projects, although in theory, the stimulus money enabled the site to retain about 800 workers whose positions otherwise could have been eliminated long before now.

Savannah River Site's $1.615 billion stimulus allocation was the second-largest among 18 DOE facilities that shared $6 billion in stimulus funds. Hanford, in Richland, Wash., received $1.633 billion.

Status Report on Savannah River Site Recovery Act Programs:

• The legacy transuranic (TRU) waste program, managed by Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, has processed more than 2,000 of its 5,000 cubic meters of legacy TRU waste. Twenty percent of the inventory has been shipped offsite to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, N.M., and more than 50 percent of the original inventory has been repackaged and remediated. This program accounts for $175 million of the $1 billion in Recovery Act payments SRS has made thus far.

• P and R Reactor, which for more than a half a century represented SRS’s role in the manufacture of nuclear weapons materials, are 80 percent of the way toward completing in-situ decommissioning with Recovery Act payments of $52.7 million and $45.5 million, respectively.

• Savannah River Remediation LLC, the liquid waste contractor at SRS, has spent more than $123 million in Recovery Act funding to support 41 projects toward cleaning and closing the Site’s 49 remaining underground radioactive waste storage tanks. Significant infrastructure improvements have been made to waste processing facilities through the use of Recovery Act funding. Fifteen waste tanks are now in various phases of operational closure, the most ever in the history of SRS.

• SRR’s Recovery Act funding has also supported the use of technology to accelerate tank closure. Remotely operated, tracked robotic devices sample tank waste. Industry-proven, enhanced chemical cleaning infrastructure will cost-effectively speed up the tank cleaning process. Waste sampling techniques that enhance worker safety, while also increasing information data on waste content, have benefited from the commitment of Recovery Act resources.

source: U.S. Department of Energy