Plutonium pit production could be coming to SRS, some still skeptical

By  | 

Monday, February 12th, 2019 / News 12 at 11 O'clock

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - The second wave of MOX layoffs occurred just days ago, leaving hundreds of people without jobs.

The project's construction license is now terminated, giving little hope to any sort of resurrection of the project.

After spending about 7 billion dollars on MOX, the government has invested almost $100 million dollars to fund pit production at SRS to replace it. But some workers at the site are skeptical.

Jim Marra, the head of Citizens for Nuclear Technology Awareness in Aiken tells News 12 that MOX is already an afterthought.

"At this stage in the game...I think many people are moving on," he said, when asked about workers at the site.

Marra worked for 26 years at Savannah River Remediation. He has connections all across S-R-S, and says pit production is the new buzz.

"There is an energy at the site that this is going to move forward...and that it is moving forward," he said.

Marra spent years dealing with how to process excess plutonium, and now thinks the solution could be on the horizon.

And that could mean jobs.

"Those pits--at least as we know today--will be needed for years and years and generations to come," Marra explained.

Even so, he knows the fear many have; that this could be just another MOX, leaving families constantly looking over their shoulders...and eventually looking for new work.

"They don't keep the momentum up--then there's real problems," Marra said, referring to the government and funding.

"I think there is rightful validation for skepticism, and for the DOE to even complete large projects," he said.

But to Marra, pit production is different.

MOX mainly dealt with how to convert nuclear waste into fuel. This new mission revolves around building up the nuclear arsenal in a way we haven't seen since the cold war, which is something the government has said is a top priority of the country in a 2018 study.

"There is an organization being stood up at the site to launch into this conceptual design phase," said Marra.

That organization is filled with senior leadership at the site.

"Once the government enters a conceptual design phase, there is a sense that it's going to be a real mission," Marra exclaimed.

The plans call for 80 pits a year, 50 of which would come from SRS (the other 30 from Los Alamos).

Mara says the design phase for pit production will most likely take a couple years.

The big drawback is the wait.

Even the most ambitious plans say this project won't be done until 2030.