Originally created 02/18/99

Company: Buyout will benefit SRS



The Savannah River Site's top contractor stands to benefit from a proposed buyout by two other companies, an official from one of those companies said Wednesday.

"This site is the crown jewel of service within the U.S. Department of Energy complex," said Thomas H. Zarges, a senior vice president for Morrison Knudsen, to about 500 SRS employees gathered at the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center for the site's annual Technology Day. "We intend to support it with everything we've got."

Morrison Knudsen and partner British Nuclear Fuels Limited are negotiating to buy Westinghouse Electric Co., the parent company of Westinghouse Savannah River Co. Westinghouse Savannah River operates SRS for the Energy Department.

The companies' officials hope to complete the deal next month, Mr. Zarges said Wednesday. Under the proposal, Westinghouse Electric Co. would remain intact as a subsidiary, he said. In fact, Morrison Knudsen plans to move some of its operations under the Westinghouse umbrella, he said.

"Westinghouse will be Westinghouse," Mr. Zarges said. "It will not be splintered. It will not be broken up."

During his address, Mr. Zarges repeatedly praised Westinghouse Savannah River for its operation of SRS.

"There is no doubt in our mind that this is the crown jewel of mission performance in the Department of Energy," he said. "The folks here have adapted to the realities of the post-Cold War era. You are doing more -- in some cases, a lot more -- with less and with fewer people.

"This is work of major international importance. It's the work of engineers and dedicated employees."

Besides praising Westinghouse, Mr. Zarges also noted Morrison Knudsen's experience at federal nuclear facilities. The company is at work at several other Energy Department sites, including Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site in Colorado and the proposed repository for spent reactor fuel at Yucca Mountain, Nev., he said.

The company, founded in 1912 in Boise, Idaho, worked on some of the nation's most historic engineering projects, including Boulder Dam, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Alaska pipeline, Mr. Zarges said.

Mr. Zarges made his comments as the keynote speaker for SRS Technology Day, now in its ninth year. The event, which is scheduled during National Engineers Week, is designed to demonstrate the science of SRS to the public and to promote engineering to young people seeking a career, an event organizer said.

"We try to tell high school students what engineering's all about, and try to interest them in careers in math, science and engineering," said Tom Moore, chief engineer for Westinghouse Savannah River's technical services division and chairman of the event.

"We want to show them that it's a field that's wide open for all."

A record 2,200 high school students browsed among the event's 118 exhibits Wednesday, Mr. Moore said.

Brandon Haddock covers energy issues for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706) 823-3409 or bhaddock@augustachronicle.com.