Lawmakers from across the country converged on Aiken this week for a days-long nuclear summit.
About a dozen state representatives – from South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, New Mexico, North Dakota and Wyoming – and a handful of state senators attended a workshop hosted by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
State Reps. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken, and Bill Hixon, R-North Augusta, as well as state Sen. Thomas Alexander, R-Walhalla, represented South Carolina at the legislative get-together.
The workshop, which ran Tuesday to Thursday with Monday flagged for travel, featured presentations and tours, and focused on the Savannah River Site, the U.S. Department of Energy's environmental efforts and Plant Vogtle in nearby Georgia.
On Tuesday, summit attendees heard from Mike Budney, the DOE-Savannah River Site manager, and Stuart MacVean, the president and CEO of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, according to an event schedule.
SRNS is the current management and operations contractor at the Site.
After some presentations, the cadre headed to the Savannah River National Laboratory for a tour.
SRNL is one of 17 DOE national labs across the country.
Work there includes environmental stewardship – both legacy and ongoing – and national defense.
Hixon said he was "glad the rest of America, the House members from all over the U.S. and the senators, could see the asset we have here with the national lab."
Taylor concurred, describing the SRNL tour and the lab's workers as the highlight.
“They do real work, they produce real product that's usable," Taylor said, "and they are the experts on nuclear waste.”
On Wednesday, the SRS tours continued, according to the itinerary.
Legislators, alongside other DOE representatives, were scheduled to visit H-Canyon, S-Area and J-Area.
Quick facts about H-Canyon at the Savannah River Site, provided by the U.S. Department of Energy.
H-Canyon is the nation's only remaining hardened nuclear chemical seperations plant. Both S-Area and J-Area are related to nuclear waste processing.
Alexander said the SRS tours provided lawmakers – some of whom arrived with "some expertise," Taylor noted – a good look at what the Site is all about.
"It's extremely complicated," Alexander said, "and I think it gave them a sense of appreciation for the different missions.”
On Thursday, the group visited Plant Vogtle in Georgia and toured ongoing construction there.