Tim Scott, Newberry Hall, Pits

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican, visited Aiken Thursday afternoon. He's pictured here after an opportunity zones luncheon at Newberry Hall.

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott said he has spoken with the leader of the National Nuclear Security Administration several times about plutonium pit production, a significant nuclear weapons undertaking with proposed roots in South Carolina.

Scott, R-S.C., on Thursday told the Aiken Standard he has had "multiple conversations" with NNSA Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, emphasizing that he supports bringing the nuclear modernization effort to the Palmetto State, though other lawmakers may not.

"The facts are very clear, that the House, our friends on the other side, are not necessarily interested in any more pit production," Scott said after a lunch event in downtown Aiken. "So we're having to fight that, which only reaffirms why I was a bit skeptical, just realizing that the challenges ahead are high."

Plutonium pits are nuclear weapon cores, often referred to as triggers. At least 80 pits per year are needed by 2030, according to the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, a leading Pentagon nuclear policy document. The U.S. does not currently have the ability to satisfy that production demand.

So in May 2018, the NNSA and the U.S. Department of Defense together recommended producing 50 pits per year at the Savannah River Site, south of Aiken, and the remaining 30 per year at Los Alamos National Laboratory, an installation in northern New Mexico recognized for its plutonium excellence.

"I think the project … is something South Carolina will be willing to accept," the junior senator said Thursday. "I think the president would be willing to sign off on that."

Last year's joint recommendation – pumping out pits in two states – in part involves reworking and refurnishing the never-completed Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site.

Work on that has already begun. Key players include Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, the lead contractor at the site, and Fluor in Greenville.

The NNSA is a semiautonomous weapons-and-nonproliferation agency under the U.S. Department of Energy umbrella.

Colin Demarest covers the Savannah River Site, the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Nuclear Security Administration and government in general. Follow him on Twitter: @demarest_colin