Aiken County is getting quite the visitor this week as U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry is coming to tour the Savannah River Site.
This will be the first time Perry is coming to SRS, which by the way, is the largest of the United States' facilities he has yet to visit. And yet, the timing of the visit dictates more than just a stop for coffee and shaking hands.
This seems to be a scouting mission.
Congress and the U.S. Department of Defense have shipped orders to the National Nuclear Security Administration to produce 80 plutonium pits per year by the year 2030. Plutonium pits are the grapefruit-sized spheres that are placed in the core of a nuclear weapon. They are critical to the weapon's detonation.
The pits are being produced at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, but the NNSA launched a study in June on whether to continue at Los Alamos or find a better site to produce the pits.
This is where SRS comes in. According to the Albuquerque Journal, the study has been leaked and it states SRS is the cheapest and best site for the production.
The state of New Mexico counters that study and is ready to fight to keep the pit production there. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and others have expressed to Perry saying the study is flawed.
Meanwhile, the cities of Aiken, North Augusta and Aiken County have passed resolutions in support of relocating pit production to the Savannah River Site. State Sen. Tom Young Jr., R-Aiken, made a motion Monday in support of the production. Even the Aiken County legislative delegation may draft a support letter.
South Carolina is forming a consensus to get the production here to SRS.
It's a consensus the Aiken Standard can get behind.
There are numerous pros and cons for residents to consider, but the glaring pro for this is the expected boom in the Aiken County economy, and for that matter, growth in Barnwell County, Augusta and throughout the Central Savannah River Area.
The pit production facility would bring as many as 800 to 1,200 jobs, but that doesn't include the initial construction to the facility. This will lead to construction of homes, growth, spending and a solid future for the economy of Aiken County and its residents.
"We think this is a positive opportunity at our site," Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon said recently. "We've been serving the needs for national security for over six decades out there. I think we're uniquely qualified for it."
Rick Perry could be seeing for himself how uniquely qualified SRS is for the production during the visit, and perhaps the study is not flawed as New Mexico states.
But it does seem to be clear, there's more to Rick Perry's visit this week.