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New SRS Chief Focuses on Reducing Risks

Cleanup plan calls for exploring alternatives for high-level waste and spent nuclear fuel. Cleanup is scheduled to be complete by 2025.

Paraphrased by:
Steve Waldrop
March 28, 2003

The new manager of the Savannah River Operations Office said he wants to change the way workers think and approach their jobs at the former nuclear weapons complex . Located in South Carolina The Savannah River Site (SRS) is bordered by the Savannah River and Georgia, and is close to several major cities, including Augusta and Savannah (Georgia), Columbia, Greenville and Charleston (South Carolina).

Jeffrey M. Allison, who was appointed by the U.S. Energy Department, will be responsible for the environmental management cleanup mission at the Sanannah River Site.

"In the past, we used to look at really managing waste, managing risks at the site, now we're looking at reducing those risks," said Allison, who had been serving as acting manager, replacing Greg Rudy, who left SRS this past summer.

Nn eight-year veteran of SRS, Allison will manage about 400 federal technical and administrative employees and an annual budget of $1.5 billion.

"Jeff's experience and familiarity of DOE nuclear facilities, including chemical processing facilities, waste management facilities and laboratories make him ideally suited to lead," said Jessie Roberson, assistant secretary for environmental management at the Energy Department.

The cleanup plan calls for exploring alternatives for high-level waste and spent nuclear fuel. Cleanup is scheduled to be complete by 2025.

"I think the environmental management mission is getting more focused on completion, treating it like a project and having a defined start and end date," Allison said. "We're taking 20 years off of our cleanup schedule and also are going to save about $12 billion. So that's a fairly significant new mission."

Other missions at SRS include a tritium-extraction operation expected to be running by July 2007 and a proposed mixed-oxide fuel fabrication plant, which now is being reviewed for license by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The MOX plant would convert weapons-grade plutonium into fuel for commercial nuclear reactors.

Allison won't directly be involved in those missions because they are being run by another part of the Energy Department.

But "clearly as the manager of the site, I've got to interface with that other part of DOE and make sure that things are done in a safe, secure manner," he said.

"We try to make sure the things they do don't impact the work we've got ongoing from an environmental management standpoint and vice versa."

SRS was constructed during the early 1950s to produce the basic materials used in the fabrication of nuclear weapons, primarily tritium and plutonium-239, in support of our nation's defense programs.