National Nuclear Security Administration to become DOE primary for Savannah River Site

Nov. 3—The U.S. Department of Energy is planning for the National Nuclear Security Administration to take over the department's management of the Savannah River Site.

Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management Senior Advisor William "Ike" White and National Nuclear Security Administration Administrator Jill Hruby sent a planning memorandum Oct. 6 directing that their offices begin the process of making the NNSA the primary office responsible for the site.

The Office of Environmental Management is the current DOE office responsible for managing the site located 20 miles south of Aiken. Its mission to clean up the radioactive waste left over when the site was producing plutonium and tritium for atomic weapons during the Cold War is expected to be complete in the mid-2030s. At that point, the national security missions of the site — plutonium pit production and tritium production — will be the primary activities at the complex located south of Aiken.

The memo instructs both Department of Energy offices to form an integrated team of senior subject matter experts and develop a transition plan by June 2023. The plan will define responsibility and management of functions and capabilities for each organization. The plan will also assess and recommend the timing of transfer of functions and responsibilities through a phased approach.

In the memo, White and Hruby write the primary principles of the transition should be "effective mission delivery, stable and seamless transition at the site, and fairness and continuity for on-going programs." Additionally, "The plan shall account for responsibility and management of functions and capabilities for each organization and those which will have shared usage and responsibility," as NNSA is set to assume primary management responsibility and budget functions in the fiscal year 2025 budget.

A news release announcing the transition says that the leadership in both offices have committed to a transparent process that will engage the Savannah River Site workforce and community, Congress, the Office of Management and Budget, and other stakeholders throughout the transition process.

The three primary contractors at the Savannah River Site will not be changed during the transition.

The contract with Savannah River Nuclear Solutions was extended for four years from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, 2026, with an additional option through Sept. 30, 2027, earlier this year. The liquid waste operations contract with Savannah River Mission Completion was awarded in 2021 and is good for a decade. The Savannah River National Laboratory, managed by Battelle Savannah River Alliance, will remain under administration by the Office of Environmental Management.

The transition to NNSA management is expected to be complete during fiscal year 2025 (Oct. 1, 2024-Sept. 30, 2025).