Proposed plutonium pit expansion raising questions

CSRA News

AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WJBF) – A public meeting is scheduled June 27 to discuss a proposal by the United States Department of Energy.

The proposal would expand production of plutonium pits at the Savannah River Site. The pits are the core of all nuclear weapons.

The meeting is being held so the Department of Energy can get the public’s opinion about what to include in a draft for an Environmental Impact Statement, which is required by law.

An EIS statement highlights the positive and negative environmental effects of a proposed action.

The Department of Energy is proposing the plutonium bomb plant to be located at the now-defunct MOX facility. President Trump pitched earlier this year more than $400 million for early-stage work to expand the plutonium pits.

A spokesman from the DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration told NewsChannel 6 they are following the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act that was signed into law last year.

The spokesman also said plutonium pit expansion at the MOX facility would add about 2,000 jobs. Replacing the ones lost last year after MOX shut down.

However, the group Savannah River Site Watch is opposed to the plutonium pit expansion saying it is unfunded, unjustified, and unauthorized.

“This isn’t a jobs program building nuclear weapons and if they’re acting like the paramount reason for this is jobs then that’s totally incorrect. It’s good when there’s a positive economic impact to the Aiken, Augusta area but this should not be pursued just for jobs. It’s related to building new plutonium pits for new nuclear weapons and that contains a bunch of nuclear proliferation concerns,” said SRS Watch spokesman Tom Clements.

Clements added, “We feel that new nuclear plutonium pit facility, the core of nuclear weapons, at Savannah River Site, is not justified and totally not needed. This facility would have risks of nuclear criticality when handling plutonium and would create various chemical and radioactive waste streams and we don’t feel that Savannah River Site should be bringing in more nuclear waste that has to be dealt with. We’ve got far enough nuclear waste at the site that has to be managed.”

The DOE is also looking in New Mexico to expand plutonium pits. The public interest meeting starts June 27 at 6:00 p.m. Doors open at 5:00 p.m. at the North Augusta Community Center ( 495 Brookside Ave, North Augusta, SC 29841).

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