The Department of Energy has authorized Battelle Savannah River Alliance to soon begin its takeover of the Savannah River National Laboratory, heralding a 120-day transition period in which critical workforce details will be hashed out and keys to the lab will be, essentially, handed over.
Battelle Savannah River Alliance’s notice to proceed, an industry phrase, is effective Tuesday. The go-ahead was disclosed Feb. 11.
The transition kicks off nearly two months after the Energy Department awarded the standalone Savannah River National Lab management contract to Battelle Savannah River Alliance, a team led by Battelle and supported by, among other players, five regional universities: South Carolina, Clemson, S.C. State, Georgia and Georgia Tech.
The potentially 10-year contract is worth $3.8 billion. The deal marks a turning point for the lab, as it will no longer be overseen by the Savannah River Site’s overarching operations team, now Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, and will instead have dedicated, discrete management.
“The notice to proceed means a transition. They’re beginning the transition from being part of SRNS to this separate company,” said Jim Marra, the executive director of Citizens for Nuclear Technology Awareness, a local nonprofit. “So, that starts the ball rolling with the two companies working together.”
The hope after three or four months, Marra added, is “you have a stand-up company.”
The near-term effect on employment at the lab is expected to be relatively small. But jobs could increase in the longer term, officials have suggested, as the national lab grows.
“BSRA’s approach will ensure the delivery of high-impact science, technology and engineering solutions into the future through a significant expansion of SRNL’s core competencies and programs,” said Mark Peters, Battelle’s executive vice president for global laboratory operations. “Our team offers an exciting, compelling vision for the future of SRNL and provides DOE a leadership team and strategy that will deliver excellence in science and technology, operations, and community engagement.”
Dr. Vahid Majidi, the current lab director, is staying on with Battelle Savannah River Alliance, as the Aiken Standard previously reported. His staying put could be seen as an anchor – continuity and stability as the lab and the site, broadly speaking, undergo change.
“It is a tremendous honor to be selected as leader of one of the nation’s leading research institutions that is working at the forefront of science and technology to solve complex environmental challenges,” Majidi said in a statement. “I look forward to working closely with the DOE, the Savannah River Site contractors, our SRNL leadership team, laboratory staff and community members to carry out a seamless transition.”