Four members of the Barnwell County Chamber of Commerce were given a tour of the Savannah River Site last week.
Touring the site were BCCC board members Dorothy Creech, Laura McKenzie, Andrew Bush and executive director Daniel Harvey. Assisting with the tour was Kristin B. Huber who works Government and Community Relations for Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, LLC and is also the Barnwell Chamber's newest board member.
The four-hour visit included tours of the Savannah River National Laboratory, the F-Canyon/F Tank Farm, the MOX constructions site, the low-level waste disposal facilities in the H Canyon. The chamber members met with SRS leadership to better understand the facility and its missions.
"The public needs to understand the missions," said Paul Hunt, Sr. Vice President of Environmental Management, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions.
"Dedicated to maintaining the highest possible safety and security standards, SRS is a key Department of Energy industrial complex responsible for environmental stewardship, environmental cleanup, waste management and disposition of nuclear materials," according to one of the brochures provided during the tour. "More specifically, SRS processes and stores nuclear materials in support of national defense and U.S. nuclear nonproliferation efforts. The Site also develops and deploys technologies to improve the environment and treat nuclear and hazardous waste left from the Cold War."
Those mission includes "environmental stewardship, clean energy and national security," said Hunt.
The site boasts of one of 13 national laboratories in the nation and is considered a premier lab.
It also has a Federal Bureau of Investigation radioactive crime lab - the only one of its kind in the United States - to assist Homeland Security with cases involving nuclear materials.
Scientists at the nuclear laboratory are currently assisting Japan in dealing with the Fukushima disaster.
Currently there is an estimated 10,175 people employed at the site which has a $1.9 billion budget.
Built in the 1950's as a nuclear weapons facility, SRS worked for decades under a veil of secrecy for national security reasons. In the last decade, officials are reaching out to tell their story of secure handling of nuclear materials, premier scientific research and ongoing work despite recent government budget cuts and the resulting layoffs.
"It was a great tour," said Dorothy Creech. "We learned a lot and we truly appreciate the time they took with us."
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