Originally created 08/06/02

Anti-nuclear groups plan to tour SRS



AIKEN - What's being described as a "fairly standard public tour" today at Savannah River Site won't be in at least one respect.

Participants will be representatives from Georgians Against Nuclear Energy and Greenpeace International, groups at odds with much of the Department of Energy's long-term agenda.

"We do routinely offer tours to groups that represent various public constituencies," said Rick Ford, a spokesman with Westinghouse Savannah River Co. "The GANE and Greenpeace groups certainly have constituents they want to provide information to."

The watchdog groups have not filed to formally demonstrate, but they are expected to ask probing questions in light of recent news events.

One is last week's acknowledgment that plutonium shipments for the controversial mixed-oxide fuel program have arrived at SRS.

With the heightened security at SRS and other government installations since Sept. 11, some questions may go unanswered. Cameras will not be allowed on the tour, a ban that has been in effect since last year.

"In the past, when they've had questions we couldn't answer, they would have their own folks along," Mr. Ford said. "It has never been what I'd call confrontational, by any means."

The tour coincides with Hiroshima Day, the anniversary of the day the first atomic bomb was used in warfare. Tom Clements, a spokesman with Greenpeace International, said questions are mounting regarding DOE's plutonium disposition policy, which he describes as "clouded in secrecy and obfuscation."

He said he fears that the tour will be canceled at the last minute.

"As far as I'm concerned, that move actually may be an effective way to demonstrate what this department is all about and how it regards those of us in the public who try to hold DOE accountable," he said.

Reach Eric Williamson at (803) 279-6895 or eric.williamson@augustachronicle.com.