U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said one of his main goals while sitting on the Senate Appropriations Committee was getting full funding for the Savannah River Site.
During his visit to the area on Monday, Graham stopped by the Aiken Standard to talk about his fight to acquire adequate funding for the Site.
“This budget was a responsible budget fiscally... we were able to make the case for SRS that the money we spend today will save us a lot of money in the future,” Graham said.
Those savings include an agreement to close the liquid waste tanks at SRS. Graham said the fashion of the agreement will save the Department of Energy $16 billion.
“Things like that go a long way in proving to your colleagues that you're being responsible,” he said. “When it came time to get full appropriations, our responsibility showed that we, at SRS, have gone out of our way to save money and that we need funding.”
In addition to tank closures, Graham also voiced his support for the MOX program. MOX has been fully funded with appropriations of $343 million – $23 million more than the federal budget request.
Like the tank closures, Graham said underfunding the MOX program would cost more in the future than fully funding it now.
“We're going to re-evaluate the cost overruns of MOX but we must also remind the government of all the money we've saved in the past,” he said. “Our approach of trying to be good stewards of taxpayers' dollars and embracing rational, environmental policies have rebounded to our benefit.”
Graham also discussed his future vision for SRS, which he feels should include the development of small modular reactors – or SMRs.
The reactors have been a hot topic over the last several months and are defined as reactors with electricity outputs of less than 300 megawatts. They are said to allow for less on-site construction and increased containment efficiency.
Graham said he would like to see the development of SMRs at the Site, as well as see continued growth at the Savannah River National Lab. Both visions, he said, are part of keeping SRS relevant in the years after waste cleanup and the construction of the MOX facility.
“I want to make sure SRS is relevant in the 21st century and that it's not a place where we clean and close-up,” he said. “I want us to have missions beyond MOX so the people and community can continue to prosper.”
In addition to visiting the Standard, Graham also visited other areas in Aiken County and held a meet-and-greet session at the National Wild Turkey Federation in Edgefield.
Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard. He joined the paper in June. He is originally from Vidalia, Ga., and a graduate of Georgia Southern University.
Follow him on Twitter @DerrekAsberry.