DOE plan could bring thousands of jobs

An additional investment of $6 billion over the next four years at SRS and other DOE cleanup sites could mean 10,000 new jobs. As part of President-elect Barack Obama's stimulus plan, billions of dollars could be funneled into the Department of Energy's cleanup program with a view to significantly accelerate the remaining work, according to an internal DOE document. "These footprint reduction efforts will lower monitoring and maintenance costs enabling (the office of Environmental Management) to focus on critical long-term activities like managing highly radioactive liquid tank waste," documents state. "They will also enable the leveraging of DOE/EM site assets to address national energy and environmental goals through the Energy Parks Initiatives." These plans are in the very early stages, but documents outline a plan that should be put in place rapidly once the new secretary is confirmed. At the Savannah River Site, cleanup on the reactors and industrial areas would be accelerated resulting in up to a 90 percent footprint of the site. This would free up 200 square miles of the site from the tight security cordon, according to the papers. The reduction of the footprints of sites at Hanford in Washington, Idaho and Oak Ridge in Tennessee would be tackled in the same way. This program could see further investment as cleaned-up sites could be used for the "rapid deployment" of large-scale energy facilities or energy parks. "States and local communities would see that there are future activities which could provide jobs and a tax base," an internal DOE document states. The plan was discussed in an industry publication, Weapons Complex Monitor, which was released Monday. Internal documents lay out a plan to shrink the DOE footprint at these sites by nearly 90 percent - from 900 square miles to 135 square miles - within the next six years. The document is said to have been making the rounds through the corridors of power in Washington before the final decisions are made on where billions of dollars of stimulus money will go. According to a source within the Savannah River Site, the Obama team came to SRS and asked them to brainstorm ways to create large numbers of jobs not shackled by funding restraints. In the last couple of weeks, SRS chiefs hammered out several "perfect world" ideas and passed them on. Shrinking budgets in recent years have seen SRS shed thousands of jobs. Most recently, approximately 300 employees chose a voluntary retirement offered by Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, the management and operations contractor, and Washington Savannah River Company, the liquid waste contractor. In phase two of the plan, Energy Park Initiatives would capitalize on the land freed up by the accelerated cleanup. Already in areas with expert personnel, existing infrastructure and experience in power plant operation, the lands would be ideal for large-scale energy facilities, the document discusses. "Without that future, some local stakeholders are concerned of the economic impact to the area once cleanup is complete," the document reads. "(Accelerating) the sitting and permitting of new energy facilities due to extensive meteorological, technical and natural resource date gathered over the past 50 years of DOE operations, these sites are as close to license ready as (any other) sites in the United States." Data collected by DOE, described as "very preliminary feedback" for the initiatives, has shown great interest from insiders. The Department of Energy refused to make any comment on the document.