A lifeline to reduce the impact of an estimated 2,500 Savannah River Site employees facing a reduced workweek or full furloughs got a public boost Thursday.
With SRS facing a significant reduction in man hours and narrowing of project scope as a result of a $104 million sequestration budget cut, a reprogramming of federal funds is under way at the Department of Energy. The request would divert an yet unknown amount of money budgeted for other projects to SRS.
Thursday, U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson wrote a letter to the Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Energy's Office of Environmental Management asking that the process be expedited.
“Given the current fiscal state of affairs, I ask that you do all in your power to expedite the DOE-EM reprogramming request to Congress for final approval,” Wilson wrote.
Budget reprogramming is the allocation of funds to purposes other than those Congress contemplated or knew of during the appropriations process. Reprogramming does not involve new funds; it involves a movement of funds between projects and procurement activities. The amount of money potentially to be reprogrammed to SRS has not been released by DOE. Wilson's office has asked for the amount but has not been given that information.
“Starting Monday, April 1, the site will begin 32-hour week furloughs for over 2,500 employees, a delay in reallocating the funds to the necessary accounts will hamper the Site's ability to continue its environmental cleanup missions which are vital to both the state of South Carolina and our nation,” Wilson wrote to Dave Huizenga, senior advisor for Environmental Management, and Jefferey Zients, acting director of OMB.
At a recent meeting in Columbia, Dr. David Moody, DOE manager at SRS, spoke frankly about the impact the cuts were to have on work at the Site. “We've fallen off the cliff and hit the rocks at the bottom,” he said, though later adding that there was still hope.
Beyond reductions in working hours, Moody explained that H-Canyon could go into limited operation, and, if current fiscal conditions continue, K and L Areas will go to minimum operations status. K-area handles and provides interim storage for excess plutonium and other special nuclear materials, while L-area is the location where spent nuclear fuel is handled and monitored.
“This reprogramming is essential ... allowing the department to complete environmental cleanup missions of national importance and will also address pending furloughs across the complex,” Wilson wrote.