Wes Hickman (202-224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)
– South Carolina’s U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint along with Third District Representative Gresham Barrett today characterized next year’s funding for Savannah River Site as adequate to carry out the important operations of the Site.
“Considering the pressure being placed on the federal budget because of the War on Terror and Gulf Coast hurricane relief efforts, I think we did as well as could be expected,” said Graham. “Funding for the Site this year is a mixed bag. We lost some fights and won others.”
"Thanks to the leadership of Senator Graham and Congressman Barrett, we were able to fund the important needs of the Savannah River Site, including the necessary cleanup and moving forward on MOX," said Senator DeMint. "However, we must remain committed to new missions and ensuring full funding in future years."
"We didn't get everything we had wanted, but in a time when everyone has been asked to cut back on spending I don't think we can complain about the overall funding levels," said Barrett. "As we move into 2006, I will continue to work with the other members of the delegation to secure the necessary funding to move forward on current projects and promote new missions."
Among the highlights of the Energy and Water appropriations bill:
- The bill makes the Savannah River National Lab eligible for Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) funds. Eligibility for these funds will ensure that the Lab is able to capitalize on the enormous innovative potential of the work going on there. This funding will provide the resources necessary for lab employees to pursue innovative technologies and expand the mission of the lab.
- $1.17 billion for environmental cleanup.
- $220 million in funding for construction of the MOX fuel fabrication facility. Last month, the Department of Energy held a ceremony to mark the beginning of work clearing and prepping the area for construction and operation of the MOX facility. When completed, the start of the art facility will turn weapons-grade plutonium into fuel to make electricity at a commercial nuclear power plant.
- $24 million for the pit disassembly and conversion facility.
- $10 million for the melt and dilute technology for excess weapons-grade plutonium.
- $1 million for energy security and diversification at Savannah River National Lab (SRNL).
Due to delays in the MOX program brought about by the lengthy negotiations over liability issues with the Russian Federation the conference report moves back the operative dates in the Thurmond-Graham language by three years.
The bill eliminates funding for further development of a Modern Pit Facility.
"In the face of strong opposition to MOX, the funding level we were able to secure is a big step forward, and I am hopeful Congressional leadership is learning the national significance of SRS," said Senator DeMint.
"I'm disappointed with the decision to eliminate funding for further development of a Modern Pit Facility. There is no doubt in my mind that we need a MPF and that SRS has the expertise and infrastructure to support such a facility; however, I understand as good stewards of the taxpayer dollar we must determine the appropriate size and scope of the facility," said Barrett. "Additionally, we are committed to ensuring the MOX facility is constructed and operational in a timely fashion. Since the liability issues concerning MOX have been resolved this funding allows us to move forward."
“The funding for MOX allows us to continue making progress in the construction and eventual operation of the facility,” said Graham. “Now that the liability issues and MOX budget have been addressed, I think we showed a good faith effort on our state’s part to update the schedule. The MPF decision was disappointing but I expect we may revisit this issue in the coming years as we determine our future nuclear deterrent needs. The biggest obstacle to MPF moving forward is that the Department of Defense will not tell us their pit needs. Without their input it will be difficult to justify a multi-billion dollar program.”