Terry Michalske, Paul Dabbar, Michael Budney

A memorandum of understanding, establishing the Savannah River National Laboratory as the lead national lab for legacy remediation work, was signed Thursday. Pictured, from left, are Dr. Terry Michalske, director of SRNL; U.S. Department of Energy Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabbar; and Michael Budney, manager of the Savannah River Operations Office.

The Savannah River National Laboratory has been named the nation's lead lab to support the U.S. Department of Energy's legacy environmental remediation efforts.

SRNL, which is located at the Savannah River Site, now becomes the go-to lab for technical support, analysis and expertise for DOE's Legacy Management branch.

DOE Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabbar visited SRS on Thursday and signed a memorandum of understanding that formalized the collaboration. SRNL Director Terry Michalske was there for the signing, too.

Prior to SRNL, there was no DOE Office of Legacy Management top lab.

DOE Legacy Management, established in 2003, is tasked with longterm, nearly perpetual responsibilities: ensuring World War II and Cold War nuclear sites are closed for good; consistently surveilled and monitored; and maintained with future land-use in mind, for example.

DOE Legacy Management sites include one in Tennessee – the Oak Ridge Warehouses Site, which stored Manhattan Project-era uranium – and one in Mississippi, the Salmon Site, a Cold War-era nuclear detonation hotspot. There are more than 90 sites under legacy purview.

SRS is not a legacy site. It is, though, one of more than a dozen ongoing cleanup sites.

SRNL is already the lead national lab for DOE Office of Environmental Management, which handles current stewardship efforts at nuclear and weapons sites.

According to the memorandum, DOE Legacy Management will gain increased assistance from SRNL – overall, the scope of legacy work at SRNL will increase.

Dabbar described SRNL scientists and engineers as "some of the best" in "the nation."

The national lab has provided assistance to legacy projects before, according to a related press release.

Carmelo Melendez, director of DOE Legacy Management, said SRNL's "expertise" and technological abilities will do his department good – and reduce the overall budget.

James Owendoff, the principal deputy assistant secretary of DOE Environmental Management, said the SRNL-Legacy Management co-op is a "natural fit."

To put it succinctly, "it's a big deal," according to Paul Erwin, the lab's communications director.

"It further establishes SRNL as the expert across the Department of Energy complex," Erwin said.

Michael Budney, the new manager of the Savannah River Operations Office, also attended the signing.

Colin Demarest is a reporter with Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since November 2017. He is a New Jersey native and received his B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communications from the University of South Carolina. Follow him on Twitter: @demarest_colin