Aiken-area officials commend SRS status, future at Nuclear Deterrence Summit

February 14, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Savannah River Site is healthy and in a competitive position going forward, current and former leaders said at the Nuclear Deterrence Summit on Wednesday.

“I think we’re in a really good place. I’ve not been at a site that was this exciting to be at since I was part of high-level waste startups back in the mid-’90s,” Savannah River Nuclear Solutions President and CEO Stuart MacVean said.

The management and operations chief pointed to “lots of good, steady support from Congress,” concrete missions and future opportunities as his proof.

The National Nuclear Security Administration, alongside the U.S. Department of Defense, last year recommended bringing plutonium pit production – longterm in the fullest sense – to SRS, and MacVean himself on Wednesday spoke of a serious uptick in tritium operations.

“I think there’s a lot of really good, positive stuff going on,” MacVean said.

Plutonium pits are nuclear weapon cores, often referred to as triggers.

Savannah River National Laboratory Director Vahid Majidi agreed with MacVean. The director said there’s wholesome trust between the national lab and the NNSA, and lab ventures have proven repeatedly successful.

Former SRS manager Jack Craig, who did U.S. Department of Energy work for approximately 30 years, had similar things to say.

“The Savannah River Site in my opinion … has made tremendous progress in a number of very difficult areas,” Craig said.

The former manager, who left his SRS post about a year ago, described the site as a “can-do” complex, one that is home to top-tier environmental efforts.

The ongoing liquid waste work at SRS – processing millions of gallons of nuclear waste; closing aging, underground storage tanks; and operating a behemoth waste glassification plant, among other tasks – is unmatched, Craig continued.

The DOE Office of Environmental Management is the SRS landlord; Savannah River Remediation, an AECOM-led team, is the current liquid waste contractor.

Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon, who was on the same discussion panel as Craig, put it simply: “The state of SRS is strong.”

The mayor, who publicly endorsed South Carolina-based pit production at the start of 2018, said the site is headed down a path of “great success.”

That prosperity, he said, is held up at least partially by a nest of communication, teamwork and familiarity.

“SRS is not just an economic driver for our city,” Osbon said, “it is our neighbors, it is friends, it is our community.”