Growth with a new mission coming to the Savannah River Site (SRS) will impact communities across the CSRA.
That was information Dennis Carr, president and CEO of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS), shared at the Nov. 9 Good Morning North Augusta breakfast, sponsored by the North Augusta Chamber of Commerce.
Carr began with an overview of recent operations and missions at the site. Currently, there are more than 25,500 people working on the site. That includes SRS employees, the U.S. Department of Energy Environmental Management, the National Nuclear Security Administration, and the U.S. Forest Service.
“We’ve had our highest commitment for subcontracting in the 75-year history of the Savannah River site, which has included almost over $700 million of commitments to all small businesses,” he said.
He added that includes about $223 million of commitments to small business in the CSRA.
“We have an incredible procurement team; they do an incredible job out into the community trying to develop and find new vendors,” he said. “That is really what we’re after right now we need that supplier base, you can see what’s coming up.”
The resumption of pit production at the site will also begin. DOE describes pits as “spherical shells of plutonium about the size of a bowling ball.” These pits need to be replaced from time to time, but for nearly three decades, the United States has not had the ability to produce them in the quantities required for the nuclear weapons stockpile.”
SRS is one of two locations chosen to begin production of pits to replace the aging inventory. The second location is the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. At SRS, materials for pits will come from the failed Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility.
A total of 80 pits will be produced a year, 50 at the Savannah River Plutonium Processing Facility (SRPPF), and the remainder at Los Alamos. Production is set to begin in 2035.
Carr said the site is currently about 50% complete with the design phase for the SRPPF. They hope to begin construction by early summer 2025. That is when the area will see a big influx of workers for both construction and operations.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of logistics that go into being able to handle that type of increase in workforce,” he said. “We’ve been busily working on the site, on housing-type activities, moving some of our folks off the site to make room for those that need to have their hands on the construction. And we’re off-site doing logistics planning right now, obviously, looking at different office space trailers.”
He added there is no question there will be a direct impact on the North Augusta area.
“There’s no question about it given the magnitude of this project,” Carr said. “And the demands on that are going to be made on local restaurants and trailer parks, housing, apartments.”
He said the hiring and job growth will come in two phases.
“The main hiring for those and the main pickup for construction will be sometime starting in 25 (2025),” he said. “Before that time, there’s still going to be continued hiring that’s going to take place. But when we move into major construction contracts in the 25 time period, that’s when you’ll see a major escalation of the second population.”
Carr said the construction phase alone will likely require upwards of 3,500 workers. Over the next five years, there could be as many as 9,200 new hires at the site.
He said that makes partnerships and apprenticeships the site has, particularly with educational institutions, a vital component to train and supply the workforce that will be needed for years to come.