It would be “logical” for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to take over as landlord of the Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C., “at some point,” the site’s top federal manager told attendees of a local group’s breakfast meeting Wednesday.
Savannah River Site Manager Michael Budney’s remarks before the Citizens for Nuclear Technology Awareness in Aiken, first reported by the local Aiken Standard, were confirmed by a Department of Energy spokesperson in South Carolina.
Budney spoke a day after DoE’s Office of Environmental Management, which funds the two main contracts at Savannah River, released a draft solicitation for a roughly $15-billion, 10-year site-management contract that would essential preserve the status quo under which the cleanup office is the site’s landlord. The final solicitation is scheduled to drop in January.
The NNSA has a long-term need for chemical separations and tritium processing facilities such as those at, and planned for, the Savannah River Site. The Aiken campus is the only place in the country where the semiautonomous DoE agency can process the tritium it needs to keep aging U.S. thermonuclear weapons at their intended level of explosive power.
In June, NNSA Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty floated the idea of the agency taking ownership of Savannah River Site from the Environmental Management office as part of a far-ranging review of the NNSA’s mission in South Carolina. The review, which is also looking at moving the tritium mission out of state to a location such as the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., is slated to wrap up in mid-December.
On Wednesday, the DoE spokesperson said Budney — who became site manager March 1 — did not intend to imply a timetable for transferring responsibility for Savannah River Site to the NNSA.
That work is performed under the Environmental Management-owned site-management contract, which is currently held by the Fluor [FLR]-led Savannah River Nuclear Solutions. The NNSA funds the tritium mission.
In its most recent Savannah River Site Liquid Waste System Plan, published in 2016, DoE estimated it would take until the early 2040s to finish cleaning up liquid waste left over from Cold War-era plutonium processing. The Environmental Management office handles that operation under a contract separate from the site-management contract.