Tom Clements, the director of a new group that will monitor Savannah River Site activities, said the group will have more expertise on SRS issues than any other public interest group in the United States.


According to a press release, SRS Watch was formed to monitor several areas, including cleanup of high-level nuclear waste, the receiving of nuclear materials from overseas, operation of the H-Canyon reprocessing plant at the Site, the MOX program and congressional deliberations concerning funding of Department of Energy proposals.


Group President Frances Close gained experience when she formed a similar interest group, the Energy Research Foundation, during the 1980s when SRS and DOE issues began coming to light, the press release stated.


“Given the host of environmental problems and proliferation threats associated with the Savannah River Site, we felt it was time to increase public interest monitoring efforts by creating a new oversight organization,” Close said.


Clements added the organization is designed as a smaller one so it will be more flexible in making statements, sending letters to government officials and participating in lawsuits.


“Our goal is to serve the public interest and not special interests, and being a lean entity close to the action is essential,” he said. “Given our knowledge of DOE issues, we expect to be actively engaged with SRS officials and the SRS Citizens Advisory Board and maintain a cordial relationship.”


One of the group’s primary methods of retrieving information will be filing Freedom of Information Acts documents, or FOIAs. However, Clements said filing them has not always gone well when requesting information from the National Nuclear Security Administration.


“NNSA has, essentially, ignored FOIA requests that have been filed related to MOX and plutonium disposition, and this cavalier and illegal non-compliance must end,” he added. “SRS has a much better record than NNSA in Washington, and those efforts to comply with FOIAs are appreciated.”


Other features of the new group will include called public meetings during “hot” issues, news events and sponsored speakers in the Aiken-Augusta area and plans to strongly interact with government officials including making trips to Washington, D.C.


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.