Determining a clear blueprint for the Savannah River Site has become increasingly muddled by funding cuts and broken promises by our national leaders.
Each decision involving its future, including the recent notion of importing new the commercial nuclear waste to the site, is consequently injected with stronger levels of urgency and complexity.
Members of the Citizens Advisory Board, a voluntary group designed to offer recommendations to SRS, narrowly rejected the idea of storing such nuclear waste on a 12-10 vote Monday, essentially opposing the transport of more than 75,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel to the site.
We applaud the committee’s efforts to investigate such issues and put forward a clear policy position. Both sides of the issue have merits, making any sort of recommendation a formidable task.
Bringing commercial spent nuclear fuel to the site could translate into a significant and new purpose for SRS, generating additional jobs and strengthening our local economy. It could also shine a spotlight on the importance of SRS, bolstering financial commitments from the federal government.
However, we’re also aware of the mission currently in place at SRS. While we don’t want to simply wave goodbye to the possibility of economic growth, the site has already faced problems and cost concerns with its current goal of remedying the waste it contains.
An added objective at the site, particularly one not matched by the federal government with the proper financial backing, could further puncture the site’s stability and vitality.
The dilemma the Board faced would not even be necessary if our national leaders had kept a pledge to our state to keep Yucca Mountain in Nevada open and operational.
The site, located about 100 miles from Las Vegas, was to be a permanent repository for such waste, a plan pursued by the Department of Energy for more than 25 years.
The Yucca Mountain project, however, was scrapped by President Barack Obama in his first term after his administration decided to terminate its funding. The long-term agreement to bury waste there should never have been nixed, especially since years of research determined Yucca Mountain was the ideal location.
Furthermore, South Carolina has been paying to advance that project with utility companies charging their customers a monthly fee in each electricity bill to contribute to the fund to construct and operate Yucca Mountain.
S.C. Sen. Lindsey Graham along with other South Carolina officials have pushed the Obama administration to rebate those monies, a very reasonable and sound request.
As our nation’s energy policy evolves, we hope the framework for the future of SRS becomes clearer. We’re grateful to have a group such as the Citizens Advisory Board working purposely and prudently toward that goal.