AUGUSTA — The Department of Energy's Savannah River Site Manager Dave Moody said there has been no decision on whether or not SRS will receive additional shipments of weapons-grade plutonium from Japan.
Moody answered questions on the issue during the SRS Citizens Advisory Board's bimonthly meeting on Monday.
President Barack Obama recently signed off on the U.S. receiving over 700 pounds of weapons-grade plutonium as part of a nonproliferation agreement. The Site's history of receiving foreign shipments of nuclear materials prompted the Board to ask Moody if SRS was an intended location.
“We haven't received a schedule on that as of yet,” Moody said. “Much of that material is intended for the WIPP (Waste Isolation Pilot Plant) and we look forward to getting that facility back up and running so we can continue making shipments of materials to the plant.”
The WIPP is located in Carlsbad, N.M. The plant has been shut down since Feb. 14 when workers were exposed to radiation.
Board members Bill Calhoun and Rose Hayes expressed concerns about the impact the WIPP could have on SRS.
Calhoun said he fears that if the plutonium comes to SRS, it could stay for an extended period. That is concerning, he said, especially if the WIPP does not revive itself.
“My point is that the CAB, based on public input, strongly voted that we did not want to receive additional receipts of foreign nuclear materials and that we should be cleaning up legacy waste that's already on-site instead of bringing in new materials,” Calhoun said.
While Board members expressed apprehension about that possibility, Moody said he is confident that the WIPP will get back up and running. He added that the SRS budget request includes funding to continue removing those materials from the Site.
“We will, at a minimum, request funding to continue making shipments,” he said. “We look forward to WIPP getting up and running again, and we believe it is a credible place as it has been for the last 12 years. I'm confident that WIPP will be a big part of the answer for the future.”
The Board's two-day, bimonthly meeting will continue today, beginning at 8:30 a.m. The meeting will be held at the Doubletree Hotel, located at 2651 Perimeter Parkway in Augusta.