As government shuts down, SRS workers brace for impact

News 12 at 6 o’clock / Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) – At 12:01 AM, for the first time in 17 years, the United States government shut down. A fierce battle over the Affordable Care Act between the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-controlled Senate ultimately killed the effort to fund federal agencies before the new fiscal year began on October 1.

Workers at the Savannah River Site are bracing for the shutdown. One worker tells News 12 that the mood on-site is a worried one.

In a memo released last Friday, the Department of Energy (DOE) spelled out its government shutdown procedure.

The plan says federal workers and contractors will continue to report to work until existing funds dry up.

“A prolonged lapse in appropriations may require subsequent employee furloughs,” the memo reads. “If there is an imminent threat to human life or protection of property, a limited number of employees may be recalled from furlough status.”

The memo says at SRS eight DOE workers would be exempt from the furloughs. One National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) worker on SRS would be exempt as well.

Contractors like Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS) and Savannah River Remediation (SRR) have yet to announce just how many workers they will have to furlough and how many will be exempt.

Dr. Clint Wolfe, Executive Director of the Citizens for Nuclear Technology Awareness, says he imagines safety of SRS will still be a priority. He says staff members vital to keeping nuclear material secure and safe will likely be exempt from any possible furloughs.

While Dr. Wolfe says he’s still unaware about how the site will be directly affected, he fears more missed milestones due to possible furloughs.

Wolfe says the strapped back 2014 budget has already led to a scaled back workforce for some missions on SRS. In early September, SRR announced that it was forced to lay-off 465 people because of the budgetary restraints.

Now, a government shutdown could put even more of a damper on SRS.

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