Originally created 09/25/98

Across the area



Bill would block more SRS layoffs

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. House overwhelmingly adopted a 1999 defense authorization bill Thursday expected to avoid further layoffs at Savannah River Site.

The $270.5 billion measure would boost cleanup programs at SRS, including an additional $30 million to upgrade the Defense Waste Processing Facility and develop alternative technology to improve or replace the failed In-Tank Precipitation Facility.

The end of the Cold War has shifted the emphasis at the downsized plant near Aiken increasingly toward cleanup missions.

But the defense bill also would put $20 million toward the design and construction of a linear accelerator at SRS to produce tritium, a radioactive gas that provides the explosive spark in nuclear bombs.

The U.S. Department of Energy is to decide by the end of the year whether to build an accelerator, which would create about 500 permanent jobs at SRS, or convert an unfinished civilian nuclear reactor in Alabama to tritium production.

The defense bill also includes $100 million for a three-year test of a new plan to improve health benefits for older military retirees.

About 66,000 military retirees ages 65 and older at six to 10 test sites would be able to enroll in the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program, which now is available only to civilian federal workers and retirees.

The bill now goes to the Senate, which may take it up as early as today.

Teen held on weapons charge

An Academy of Richmond County High School student was charged Thursday with possession of a weapon on school property.

Rashada Raynell Johnson, 17, of the 2100 block of Hillsinger Road, was arrested at 11:30 a.m. after authorities found a black-handled, lock-blade knife with a 3 1/2 -inch blade, according to Richmond County sheriff's reports.

Possessing such a weapon on school property is a felony.

David Robbins, an assistant principal at Richmond Academy, spotted Mr. Johnson and two other students off-campus -- police reports don't indicate where -- and advised them to go to the school office.

After arriving at the office, Mr. Robbins asked Mr. Johnson to empty his pockets. That's when Mr. Robbins saw Mr. Johnson trying to conceal the knife in another student's book bag, according to police reports.

After his arrest, Mr. Johnson was taken to the Richmond County jail.

Group targets fuel company

A company that wants to manage Savannah River Site should be scrutinized, a nuclear activist group says.

British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. wants to make plutonium mixed-oxide fuel, called MOX, at the site. But Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment says the company has had environmental problems. British Nuclear is a primary target of the group.

"I hope this will prompt people to question whether this is the company that should lead the process in the United States," said CORE member Martin Forwood.

Earlier this year, British Nuclear partnered with Idaho engineering firm Morrison Knudsen to bid on Westinghouse Electric Corp.'s nuclear division, which includes a contract to manage SRS for the U.S. Energy Department.

Federal regulators are looking at the deal.

British Nuclear officials acknowledge the company has had environmental problems, but they say it offers a safe, technologically advanced solution for dealing with excess plutonium.

British Nuclear supplies several nuclear plants in Europe with the mixed-oxide fuel.

Probe results withheld for now

Richmond County school officials have completed their investigation of a Hephzibah Middle School assistant principal who may have used inappropriate language when describing sexual harassment to sixth- and seventh-graders.

But officials don't expect to release results until sometime next week. Superintendent Charles Larke said he first must meet with the school's principal and the assistant principal.

Dr. Larke said he ordered an investigation of Charlotte Sudderth, the assistant principal, because of complaints from parents and teachers.

Dr. Larke said he was told that Ms. Sudderth used language that made students and teachers gasp when describing the type of behavior that constitutes sexual harassment.

The incident reportedly happened last month at an orientation during the first week of the school year.

Chinese restaurant robbed

A Richmond County restaurant was robbed Thursday afternoon, police said.

A man wearing a ski mask walked into Ming Wah Restaurant, 920 Baker St., at 3:11 p.m., demanded money from an employee and placed a blue Crown Royal bag on the counter, said Richmond County sheriff's Investigator Joanne Nutter.

The man threatened the employees but no one saw a weapon, Investigator Nutter said. The man ran out of the restaurant with an undisclosed amount of money.

He was black and wore baggy blue jean shorts and a red-and-blue basketball jersey with the name "Hill" on the back.Man robs Huddle HousePolice were looking for a man who robbed a downtown Augusta restaurant at knife-point Wednesday night.

A man brandishing a knife entered the Huddle House on 13th Street at 11:15 p.m. and demanded the money from the cash register, said Richmond County sheriff's Investigator Billy Kitchens.

The man left the restaurant with money, but authorities wouldn't disclose how much. Police found the knife across the street in the yard at Sacred Heart Cultural Center.

Representative to be in Aiken

U.S. Rep. Floyd Spence, R-S.C., will campaign Sunday in Aiken.

Mr. Spence will be at the home of Diane and Denny Giddings, 334 Shakerag Road, from 2 to 4 p.m.

The public is invited, and refreshments will be served.

For information, call Mrs. Giddings at 641-9631.

Mr. Spence, who represents the 2nd Congressional District, is running for re-election against Jane Frederick, a Beaufort Democrat.

Disabilities workshop planned

Parent to Parent of Georgia is sponsoring an Individuals with Disabilities Education Act workshop Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Walton Rehabilitation Hospital's outpatient building.

Linda Shepard, executive director for Parents Educating Parents and Professionals, will be the guest speaker.

For information, call Regina Mertz at 860-8350.