Originally created 06/26/04

Four SRS programs lose funds



AIKEN - Four major programs crucial to new missions and new jobs at the Savannah River Site were severely slashed in a House appropriations bill passed Friday afternoon. This sets the stage for a battle to restore money in both the Senate and a conference committee that will be formed in early July.

In addition, the House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill cuts $76 million from the U.S. Department of Energy's cleanup program for high-level nuclear waste, which will delay radioactive waste disposal at SRS, DOE officials said.

But environmental work at SRS is winding down, and the facility's supporters are more disturbed by the cuts to four programs counted on to breathe new life into a federal nuclear reservation that faces substantial job losses now that the Cold War is over and the need for nuclear arms has been reduced.

The House bill, which covers fiscal year 2005, includes a repudiation of the newly named Savannah River National Laboratory by denying any of the money needed to upgrade the research center to its new status. This will limit the lab's ability to win new projects from DOE and other federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security, said Mal McKibben, the executive director of Citizens for Nuclear Technology Awareness, a pro-nuclear group based in Aiken.

The bill also fails to provide any money for the Modern Pit Facility, a multibillion-dollar factory that will produce new triggers for nuclear weapons. It also bars the U.S. Department of Energy from choosing a site for this project from one of five federal nuclear reservations, including SRS.

The bill cuts $31 million from President Bush's Hydrogen Fuel Initiative, a program that fits scientific expertise at both SRS and the lab.

Although South Carolina and Georgia politicians vowed to fight to restore money for all SRS programs, the stark numbers of the House bill mean all four programs will take a major hit in 2005, said U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, R-S.C.

Reach Jim Nesbitt at (803) 648-1395, ext. 111, or jim.nesbitt@augustachronicle.com.

Four major programs counted on to breathe new jobs into the Savannah River Site were severely slashed in a House appropriations bill passed Friday. In addition, the bill cut money from a cleanup program for high-level nuclear waste, and officials said that will delay disposal at SRS.Source: U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, R-S.C.