As our region responds to the current pandemic, I’m reading and hearing local discussion about “why isn’t SRS just shutting down?” As an SRS retiree I’d like to offer my perspective.
First, I understand and support that other manufacturers and businesses in our region have followed CDC guidance and made the difficult decision to close. However, such decisions can’t be quickly applied to a unique, complex manufacturing facility like the Savannah River Site.
Second, SRS contractor employees work on missions that are critical to protecting our nation, supporting manufacturing jobs to produce nuclear materials and safeguarding and processing similar materials – including tritium, a key component in nuclear weapons. All jobs at SRS are linked to and support those critical missions, so “shutting down” is simply not possible for many of those employees.
Third, protecting the safety of its employees has been a value at SRS for the past 70 years, and I believe that continues today. Earlier in the week the Aiken Standard and Augusta Chronicle outlined several of the actions SRS has already implemented: encouraging workplace social distancing policies and remote meeting guidance; improving site network infrastructure to provide telework for employees caring for vulnerable individuals, childcare issues, etc.; enhanced facility cleaning; and managers are making every effort to support employee requests to take personal time. And they have teams in place to assess this rapidly changing event.
Although retired from SRS, I continue to maintain periodic close contact with the staff and management of SRNS, SRR and the DOE. I salute their vigilance, discipline and rigor in dealing with the COVID-19 challenge. They are outstanding stewards of employee health and welfare, and the taxpayers’ dollars. We live in a generous and giving community, and I’m heartened as I see so many examples of people helping friends, neighbors and those in serious need. I join all of you in hoping we can quickly weather this crisis and recover.
Dr. Andy Cwalina