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Day of mixed emotions at Savannah River Site as historic reactors close

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, September 29, 2011

SAVANNAH RIVER SITE, S.C. -- Dozens of workers, dignitaries, and guests gather in the shadow cast by a concrete mountain. It blossoms like an Aztec pyramid from its green surroundings.

"No, we weren't worshipping some weird gods with what we've got constructed, but I do have to ask that question—what will people think a thousand years from now?" joked Dr. David Moody, the DOE-SR manager.

They'll be looking at the remains of the P & R Reactor Area. It was built by workers like John Barrineau in the fifties; it helped the United States win the Cold War.

"I saw this thing from the start to all the reactors in operation," said Barrineau.

His son carried on his legacy, but his mission with the reactor was very different. He helped shut it down.

"We've protected all the upper structures and all of that stuff with reinforced concrete and basically closed it up so it's almost just one big chunk of concrete today," said Kenny Barrineau.

Today, he saw that historic reactor officially close. But Dr. Moody, the Department of Energy Site Manager for Savannah River Site, says the ceremony is also about honoring the federal stimulus dollars and workers that made the project possible.

"The Recovery Act funds that came into this site accomplished tremendous work with tremendous efficiency," he said.

But now, with almost all of that stimulus money dried up, his focus is on the future. Their plan for the site is called Enterprise SRS.

Within the new plan are a number of projects and goals he believes will serve as a new chapter for SRS—even as they close a chapter today.

"It truly is a site vision for the future. We all own it. It's not one person's vision. It's not my vision. It's our vision," he said.

Despite the closure, the site still processes and supplies tritium, a vital component of nuclear weapons.

Click here to read the new plan, Savannah River Site Strategic Plan (September 2011)

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