Aiken Standard’s Top 10 Local Stories in 2021 – # 4: Pits and a Decisive Year for SRS | Local news
Editor’s note: The Aiken Standard is counting down its top 10 local news for 2021. This is # 4 in the 10-part series that begins December 22nd and ends December 31st.
From massive projects and shiny new contracts to pandemic protocols and vaccine lawsuits, 2021 was a pivotal year for the Savannah River site.
The Department of Energy reservation employs thousands, and its influence is difficult to ignore in both South Carolina and Georgia. In 2020 alone, the location had an economic impact of $ 2.2 billion in five nearby counties, including Aiken County.
Perhaps the most momentous decision of that year related to the production of plutonium mines, the forging of nuclear weapon cores aimed at by the military.
The National Nuclear Security Administration announced in June that its mining center at the Savannah River site – the Savannah River Plutonium Processing Facility – had received the green light, prompting South Carolina for another long-term role in modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
SRS had an economic impact of $ 2.2 billion in the Aiken County area, a new study shows
The cost of the Savannah River plutonium processing plant was then roughly estimated at $ 6.9 billion to $ 11.1 billion. Officials said it would likely be ready between 2032 and 2035, years later than originally hoped. The date has been the source of much debate, if not anger, since then.
Savannah River Nuclear Solutions remains in the lead on the local project. In July, Stuart MacVean, President and CEO of SRNS, told the Aiken Rotary Club that he would do everything possible to ensure that dozens of pits are produced on site by 2030.
The Savannah River Site would not be what it is without its weighty contracts, which often run into the billions and anticipate the future of the facility.
And this year was one of the big changes.
In 2021, a new liquid waste team, Savannah River Mission Completion, was named; the Savannah River National Lab was taken over by the Battelle Savannah River Alliance, a grouping of Battelle and universities on both sides of the river; North Wind Construction Services of Idaho was selected to design and build the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative at USC Aiken; and the search for the next management team for the Savannah River site has been suspended to keep Savannah River Nuclear Solutions in place for the foreseeable future.
As the pandemic continued – and continued into 2022 – Savannah River Site contractors continued to respond, adapt and make tough demands.
Perhaps the most controversial move related to the coronavirus has been the implementation of the COVID-19 vaccine requirements. Complaints about it have been filed throughout the Department of Energy complex; the Savannah River Site is no exception.
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In October, dozens of workers sued Savannah River Nuclear Solutions. Four longstanding Centerra employees also sued their employer. And spanning everything were decisions and orders of the federal government, which were also litigated.
Aiken Citizens for Freedom, a grassroots group, has protested vaccine mandates at the Savannah River site. A demonstration was organized in September near New Ellenton, north of an SRS barricade. Another was organized along the busy Whiskey Road in Aiken. Members even protested an event unrelated to SC Governor Henry McMaster he was attending in Trenton.
A sign there said: “The gates of hell are with SRS. Where are you, Governor? “