Originally created 04/03/00

Make SRS repairs



It's unfortunate that the Savannah River Site may let go hundreds of workers for budgetary reasons at a time when the nuclear weapons facility is in dire need of repairs.

One of the fears Central Savannah River Area residents have had since downsizing began in the early 1990s is that the process would go too far and damage, if not ruin, the plant's two major assets: its infrastructure and uniquely experienced work force.

Ironically, this is happening when SRS is both seeking and getting new missions from Washington, D.C. But those missions can't be carried out effectively if lawmakers won't maintain the specialized work force or maintain the integrity of the infrastructure.

The site's Citizens' Advisory Board sounded the alarm earlier last week, when a subcommittee warned the Department of Energy that a delay in repairing the infrastructure is akin to playing Russian roulette.

If repairs aren't soon made, it will "come back to bite us," said Chairman P.K. Smith. Indeed, the federal site has a backlog of about $800 million in repairs and upgrades to its infrastructure -- the backbone formed by roads, bridges, utilities and buildings.

Although the advisory board has no regulatory authority over the DOE site, its opinions should add clout to the agency's request to get more infrastructure money out of Washington.

As Larry Snyder, the Energy Department's director of SRS' facility services, pointed out, we can pay now or pay later. But the longer we defer maintenance, the more costly it becomes.