All four U.S. senators from South Carolina and Georgia are urging the nation's new energy secretary to fix Savannah River Site's aging infrastructure.
Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., wrote Friday to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, asking him to fund about $208 million in improvements at the federal nuclear weapons site. The letter was co-signed by Sens. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, D-S.C.; Max Cleland, D-Ga.; and Zell Miller, D-Ga.
"As a result of lacking refurbishment, SRS has experienced an increase in the amount of problems in areas that have not received upgrades in the past 10 years," the senators wrote, noting that much of the site's infrastructure is more than 40 years old.
"In order for SRS to remain the `Flagship' of the Energy Department's industrial complex, we strongly feel that there are several critical areas that require immediate attention from you and your Department."
The letter came one day after Mr. Abraham testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee about infrastructure needs at the nation's nuclear weapons facilities.
A spokesman for the secretary said Mr. Abraham was committed to meeting infrastructure needs across the nuclear weapons complex.
"The secretary has made addressing the problems of infrastructure at all of our sites a top priority and will be addressing all the needs at all the sites in some way, shape or form," said Joe Davis, the secretary's deputy director for public affairs. "We appreciate the senators' heads-up and look forward to speaking with them about the issues."
SRS has a backlog of about $800 million in needed repairs and upgrades to its infrastructure - the backbone that is formed by roads, bridges, utilities and buildings.
Concerns about the site's infrastructure have surfaced several times, most recently in March 2000, when the site's Citizens Advisory Board pushed the Energy Department to provide money to address SRS infrastructure needs.
Repair needs cited
U.S. senators from South Carolina and Georgia asked Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham to fund improvements in five specific systems at Savannah River Site:
Steam system reconfiguration: Would replace the D-Area powerhouse, the site's primary steam supplier, with a more efficient source of steam. Estimated cost: $40 million.
Improvements to waste collection and transfer system: Would upgrade the site's system for transferring highly radioactive wastes in order to meet state and federal regulatory requirements. Estimated cost: $45 million.
Improvements to Savannah River Technology Center's ventilation systems: Would upgrade the research-and-development lab's ventilation systems, which currently place workers at risk of exposure to radiation, the senators reported. Estimated cost: $40 million.
Security Systems Restoration Project: Would replace aging systems, prone to failures, with modern, standardized equipment. Estimated cost: $48 million.
Site Electrical Infrastructure Restoration Project: Would upgrade site electrical systems that cannot cope with increased demands for electricity. Some systems contain components that do not comply with codes and could cause fire and explosion if they failed, the senators wrote. Estimated cost: $35 million.
Reach Brandon Haddock at (706) 823-3409.