SRS Sign, MOX SRNS

The entrance to the Savannah River Site. The Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility is located at SRS.

The general public and readers of the Aiken Standard and North Augusta Star, many who live within a few miles, as the crow flies, from the Savannah River Site have been invited to North Augusta this Thursday evening to participate in an important meeting regarding the future of the site.

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) calls it a public scoping meeting.

The topic up for discussion is the proposed repurposing of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MOX) at the site into a plutonium pit production facility. Pits are grapefruit-sized cores of nuclear weapons. SRS has years of experience handling weapons-grade plutonium and data supports that the site continues to be the safest containment facility in the country but pit production is something that hasn’t been done in the United States since 1989. Refashioning old pits with new safety and security measures under a high-pressure, tight timeline is something we believe needs to be fully scoped.

And your opinion matters.

You’ve lived around this plant for more than 60 years; you know the dynamics of the workforce, the quirks of the regional climate, and you are concerned for the future. We are here to stay, whether or not the pit production comes to the site. 

A pit production plant could bring as many as 1,000 jobs to the area and with the growth even more jobs to the community. 

However, we’ve seen with MOX just how far and how long our federal government can lead us before throwing on the brakes.

Unlike MOX, a project with an end date, pit production could continue indefinitely, or at least as long as the U.S. maintains its nuclear arsenal. Comments shared Thursday night can impact our community for generations.

The public "can be effective against bad Department of Energy ideas, like the pit production one," Tom Clements, director of Savannah River Site Watch, said at a forum held earlier this month in Aiken.

Review the environmental impact study (EIS) on the proposed project. Demand transparency on materials handling and remind the DOE that South Carolina has been on the receiving end of chemical disasters, like the Graniteville train derailment.

The public meeting is from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday at the North Augusta Community Center, 495 Brookside Ave., North Augusta, SC 29841.

According to energy.gov, “written comments on the scope of the EIS, requests to be placed on the EIS distribution list, and comments or questions on the scoping process may be sent by email to NEPA-SRS@srs.gov or by mail to Ms. Jennifer Nelson, NEPA Document Manager, National Nuclear Security Administration Savannah River Field Office, P.O. Box A, Aiken, SC 29802.”

The public scoping period will close on July 25, 2019.