A senior U.S. Department of Energy official on Wednesday said a National Nuclear Security Administration takeover of the Savannah River Site would eventually be the right path forward, given the Site's current overarching mission: complete cleanup.
"At some point, it would be logical," SRS manager Michael Budney said during the Citizens for Nuclear Technology Awareness "Up & Atom" breakfast. "Because if I'm doing my job right, we're going to be finishing the EM (Environmental Management) mission out there at some point, turning over stuff to Legacy Management."
SRS is an active DOE Office of Environmental Management remediation site. DOE Environmental Management is the current Site landlord, as well.
The DOE Office of Legacy Management, established in 2003, is tasked with following up and perpetually ensuring World War II and Cold War era nuclear sites are closed, constantly monitored and well-maintained.
The NNSA – a semiautonomous DOE agency in charge of the nation's nuclear complex – is currently reviewing its role at the Site, according to a June 29 internal memo obtained by the Aiken Standard.
More specifically, a working group, convened by NNSA chief Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, is evaluating a potential landlord switch, among other things.
Budney acknowledged the study on Wednesday.
"And I know you've heard about this study that's going on about should NNSA be the landlord versus Environmental Management," Budney said. "We're working through that. Doesn't change the scope of the work out there."
DOE Environmental Management represents a 60 percent stake at SRS currently, the Site manager said. The NNSA represents a 35 percent stake.
Budney said Site parties, including the NNSA, are figuring out "what the right timing is" and "what the right sequence is" in regards to proper – potential – transition. He described the entire process as "very careful."
If the NNSA was to assume control of SRS, the agency would "maintain its ongoing work while bringing another enduring national security mission to South Carolina," a senior NNSA spokesperson told the Aiken Standard last week.
In May, the NNSA and the U.S. Department of Defense jointly recommended bringing plutonium pit production to SRS. Doing so, the agencies stated, would work best if the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility was repurposed and refitted.
Plutonium pits are grapefruit-sized nuclear weapon cores.
Pit production at SRS would be a longterm boon for the Site and would require a grand influx of funding, workers and equipment.
Near the end of July, Budney told a nuclear advisory board the NNSA's review is run of the mill.
"This is just a routine kind of process we always go through – especially when there’s different, new leadership – about looking at doing an evaluation of how things operate and what’s the best way to do it, what’s the most efficient means," Budney said at the time.