Originally created 09/06/06

Companies seek nuclear projects

AIKEN - Savannah River Site boosters continue to push for a piece of President Bush's global nuclear power plans.

A consortium of large engineering companies, led by the Economic Development Partnership of Aiken and Edgefield counties, is applying to build two demonstration facilities at SRS that are part of the president's so-called Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, officials announced Tuesday.

The president's plan to expand nuclear power hinges on a proposed facility capable of recycling spent nuclear fuel and power plants capable of running off such fuel.

If selected, the SRS group would be among several that qualify for up to $5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to prepare more detailed plans illustrating the site's strengths and compatibility. The DOE got more than 40 responses in March when it went looking for organizations interested in the global program.

The DOE plans to select winning demonstration bids by the end of October, and winners would get an additional 90 days to prepare final applications.

"A successful proposal will lead to new, long-term energy-related missions which will greatly benefit our communities," Fred Humes, the executive director of the Economic Development Partnership, said in a prepared statement.

Building the demonstration facilities would cost several billion dollars and would mean several thousand new jobs, he stated.

His partner, Ernie Chaput, a former DOE manager at SRS, said the site has several things going for it, including space at the 310-square-mile reservation and decades of expertise with reprocessing spent nuclear fuel.

"The whole nuclear infrastructure at Savannah River factors into this," Mr. Chaput said in an interview Tuesday.

Among other things, the DOE will be looking for sites with access to water, road availability and seismic activity.

At least two companies assisting with the SRS application, Washington Group International, the parent company of Washington Savannah River Co. that runs SRS for the DOE, and AREVA Inc., which is designing a plutonium conversion plant at SRS, have experience with the process.

"These companies give a great deal of strength to the application," said Mal McKibben, the executive director of Citizens for Nuclear Technology Awareness, which promotes SRS.

Bob Pedde, the president of WSRC, told members of the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday that the technology would greatly cut down on the sort of waste that is currently being stored at SRS, his spokesman, Will Callicott, said.

"This is a project that would help address a major national need, specifically helping us reclaim the energy value of spent nuclear fuel and have less material that would ultimately have to go to Yucca Mountain," Mr. Pedde said. "This is a project that, if it happens, would have potentially a remarkable impact on this community."

Reach Josh Gelinas at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or josh.gelinas@augustachronicle.com.


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