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Guest column: Celebrating 70 years of success at SRS

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U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson 

This month marks the 70th anniversary of the Savannah River Site. Looking back, the site has accomplished a remarkable amount of essential national defense missions to safeguard our nation and looking ahead, the future continues to look bright.

In the 1950s, the site answered the call to prepare the United States for the Cold War. Within six years of breaking ground, production reactors went critical. Tritium facilities became operational and shipments were sent to the Atomic Energy Commission. Without delay, the site’s construction was completed, and we became a key supplier of materials for our nation’s nuclear weapons inventory. This was crucial for Cold War victory liberating dozens of countries across Central and Eastern Europe and into Central Asia.

Much has changed since then. While the site still maintains critical responsibility for maintaining our nuclear deterrent, we have also led efforts in waste remediation and nuclear innovation. I was grateful to attend the Salt Waste Processing Facility’s ribbon cutting last month to start hot operations for the remediation of high-level waste from the Cold War era. This award-winning project will safely close the site’s remaining 43 high-level waste tanks by processing over 30 million gallons of radioactive salt waste for safe disposal.

The reputation of the site doesn’t remain only within the 310 square miles inside the gate. A positive impact has enriched the economies of the regions in which the site resides. With an annual economic force of $2.4 billion, the site has become the core of local communities, specifically academia. After over five years of working on the $50 million Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative, alongside Sen. Lindsey Graham, I was grateful to join Chancellor Dr. Sandra Jordan to unveil a model of the AMC to be located at USC Aiken’s campus. This public-private partnership combines the unique capabilities of the Savannah River National Lab with industrial enterprises and educational institutions to drive the long-term sustainability of the United States and South Carolina manufacturing sector. I have no doubt that this project will generate private investment and innovation to the region.

As we move forward, the support from our community and talented workforce continues to make the site attractive for new missions. I look forward to continue working in Congress to support the Savannah River Plutonium Processing Facility, a mission that leverages existing infrastructure to modernize our nuclear inventory; the Surplus Plutonium Disposition program which safely dilutes and disposes of excess plutonium in the state; and the Savannah River Tritium Enterprise to continue to prepare the nation’s only tritium supply for our national defense. These missions bring high-skilled jobs to the region, which then have positive impacts on our community.

As the only current member of Congress to have worked at the Savannah River Site, I have a special appreciation for the relationship between the site and the local communities. I am grateful to represent the site in Congress, and I look forward to its continued success.

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