Forum breaks down nuclear impact in community

Thursday's nuclear forum at USC Aiken covered the many platforms of the nuclear industry in Aiken County and surrounding areas.

Sponsored by the Citizens for Nuclear Technology Awareness – or CNTA – the forum included three panels of professionals who spoke on how the Savannah River Site impacts the local nuclear industry in various ways, including SRS projects, education and community/economic development.

The following is a breakdown of those areas.

SRS projects

The Savannah River Site, and its many impacts, was a major topic at the nuclear forum. The Site's Department of Energy Manager David Moody spoke on several Site objectives for the upcoming year, including the continued closing of liquid waste tanks, the construction of the salt waste processing facility, and continued efforts to bring small modular reactors – or SMRs – to the site.

“We happen to believe that Savannah River Site is a very good location (for SMRs),” Moody said. “We believe that there is a tremendous future for small modular reactors. We believe the Site is well-poised with its infrastructure to contribute to growth in that area.”

Hadron Technologies, a microwave technology and systems development and manufacturing company, was also present at the forum.

Chief Technology Officer Stan Morrow discussed the business's partnership with Savannah River National Laboratory.

Morrow said the two groups signed an agreement with the lab to create hybrid microwave equipment.

“Having the lab as a partner to commercialize technology is essential,” Morrow said. “Our goal is to create jobs and continue research, so this area with all of its nuclear expertise is a great place to do that.”

Education

The nuclear industry has also had a major impact on education in the local community, said local panelists. According to Aiken Technical College President Susan Winsor, the school had no nuclear programs or expertise as early as six years ago. However, the school has had a major turnaround thanks to local efforts.

“Our friends at URS approached us and helped with funding to get a radiation program along with a partnership with SRNS,” Winsor said. “Now, our students work at sites across the nation, and we have 60 graduates working coast to coast in the nuclear industry.”

Thomas Hallman, former USC Aiken chancellor, was also present at the forum and spoke about SRS's impact on the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center. The Science and Technology Enrichment Program offers educational opportunities for grades K-12 and is a collaborative effort between SRNL and the education center, among others.

“Many of the program's classes are taught at SRS and their influence helped the education center gain over 92,000 visitors in 2012,” Hallman said. “So the partnership has been essential in our progression.”

Community/economic development

Former SRNS CEO Chuck Munns highlighted one of the most glaring economic facts for the Aiken County: Every one job at SRS represents 2.5 jobs in Aiken County. Because of that, the Site's progression is an important part of the county.

Munns highlighted the Site's cleanup efforts and how land use and air quality also impact the community.

“Community leadership, closing down tanks and environmental cleanup are all essential to our community,” Munns said. “The nuclear industry is one of the largest employers in our region and provides high-quality jobs, local procurement and tax revenue.”

According to facts presented at the forum, SRS's 2010 economic output equaled $2.5 billion. The facts also show that SRS has an impact on one in every five jobs in the county, one in every four homes, and relates to about 25 percent of the county revenue.

Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce President and CEO J. David Jameson internalized the information and reflected on the importance of the SRS's community impact.

“Of particular interest is the many dimensions the nuclear industry touches – not only in this community but the entire country,” Jameson said. “So many people related to what's happening around the country and really around the world are related to what's happening right here at Savannah River Site. So it's a moment of pride that reinforced why we live in this community.”

Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard news team and joined the paper in June. He is originally from Vidalia, Ga., and graduated from Georgia Southern University with a journalism degree in May 2012.

Editor's note: The Savannah River National Laboratory was misnamed in a previous version of this story. The Aiken Standard regrets the error.

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