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U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan: Spending for nuclear cleanup would be supported, justifiable

Jeff Duncan, Cleanup Hearing, Spending

U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., is pictured speaking to the Aiken Republican Club. Duncan is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan is a self-professed fiscal hawk.

But when it comes to nuclear cleanup, especially that of wastes sitting in aging tanks at various sites across the country, the South Carolina Republican is willing to bet people are fine with spending.

"Where does Hanford sit? It sits on the Columbia River," Duncan said, speaking Wednesday morning during a House investigations subcommittee hearing. "Where does Savannah River Site sit? It sits on the Savannah River. Where does Oak Ridge sit? On the Tennessee River."

His constituents and other "people around the nation" are likely OK with investing to keep the waste – or nuclear material in general – out of those rivers by way of proper remediation, he explained. That take is especially true, Duncan said, in light of the "money our government spends on other things."

Millions of gallons of nuclear waste sit in dozens of senescent, underground tanks at SRS. Cleaning out and closing those tanks, as well processing the tank contents, falls to the SRS liquid waste contractor, right now Savannah River Remediation.

SRR is an AECOM-led team with partners Bechtel National, BWXT and Jacobs. SRR has been handling the SRS liquid waste mission for about a decade now; the team secured an 18-month, $750 million contract extension earlier this year.

The hearing during which Duncan spoke – he also addressed Yucca Mountain and defense plutonium – was titled "DOE's Mounting Cleanup Costs: Billions in Environmental Liability and Growing."

SRS is an active U.S. Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management site. Environmental Management, formed in 1989, is tasked with cleaning up the legacy of the nation's nuclear weapons production and government-sponsored energy research.

Environmental Management is currently working 16 sites across a handful of states.

"Go to Savannah River Site and understand what they're dealing with with underground tanks, what they're dealing with with H-Canyon, its ongoing missions and the waste that will be created then," Duncan said, wrapping up his roughly six-minute monologue. "Because this isn't going away as our nation continues to try to be safe in a global environment that we have."

Projected lifecycle completion for SRS is 2065, according to Environmental Management's online tracker. SRS has an expected lifecycle cost between $97 billion and $115 billion, per Environmental Management.

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