The Department of Energy's Savannah River Site may be cutting 600 jobs from its workforce as a result of a proposed $100 million federal budget cut, according to several community leaders.
According to J. David Jameson, president and CEO of the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce, the cut translates to a $40-million-plus reduction in payroll, which will be felt throughout the region.
“We've got a real fight on our hands to turn this around,” said Jameson, who is an immediate past chairman of the SRS Community Reuse Organization. “Congress needs to pass a budget and quit kicking the can.”
Department of Energy representatives, as well as approximately 70 community members, met to voice similar concerns during Thursday's public forum at Aiken Technical College.
Recently, full-time employees at SRS were forced to reduce their hours to a 32-hour workweek. If budget cuts continue, the belief is that the issue may rise again with more layoff notices to follow.
“We are working on a very tight budget in this country,” said David Moody, the manager of DOE-SR. “We're not working with what we ask for; we're working with what we're given. And ... when we have the funding, we deliver.”
Moody then displayed a list of SRS's accomplishments from last year. Those accomplishments include the closing of two, high-level waste tanks, complete deactivation of three nuclear reactors and the packaging of 700 containers of non-moxable plutonium to ship off for disposition.
In spite of sequestration, DOE-SR displayed a full list of planned accomplishments for this year, as well. The list includes continuing closure activities for two more tanks, construction of the Salt Waste Processing Facility and shipping non-moxable plutonium to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.
The full list is online at www.energy.sc.gov/gnac/ 0613GNAC_Presentation.pdf.
Douglas Hintze, acting chief financial officer at DOE-SR, also expressed his concerns about the budget in relation to the list of goals. Much like Moody, Hintze has maintained that the department is capable of meeting its goals when adequate funding is granted.
“Congress gives us authorization to do the work, but we can't actually get anything done until we receive appropriations,” Hintze stated when asked about the funding dilemma. “The problems at the Site don't go away; liquid waste, along with our other responsibilities, will remain here until we get the proper funding.”
Currently, officials are planning for various budget scenarios if the federal government fails to pass a budget by Oct. 1.
Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard news team and joined the paper in June. He is from Vidalia, Ga., and graduated from Georgia Southern University with a journalism degree in May 2012.