Jul. 8—A board that provides feedback about the Savannah River Site and the cleanup efforts there to the Department of Energy has atrophied significantly, with its membership now in the single digits.
The Savannah River Site Citizens Advisory Board, sanctioned by the department and based in Aiken, currently sports six members, far fewer than its full strength, a total 25.
Dr. Gregg Murray, the board chairman, in a June 28 meeting said he would "very much miss our 19 or so CAB colleagues who would normally be at a full board meeting with us but can't because" the Energy Department "did not approve their membership applications after nearly 10 months."
"I also note, regrettably, that they will not be with us for the reminder of the CAB's work this year," he continued, "as DOE HQ has decided in the last few weeks to reject all of our CAB applicants for the coming year."
The board last month unanimously rebuked the membership process — and suggested an overhaul — in a recommendation now awaiting a response from the Energy Department.
"I'm told that DOE values community input," Murray said, "but evidently not the input of these volunteers who freely offer a considerable amount of time to sort through a great deal of technical information and otherwise participate on the CAB."
Savannah River Site manager Michael Budney described the board's recommendation as appropriate.
The Savannah River Site Citizens Advisory Board provides advice and information concerning the Savannah River Site and its surrounding communities to the Energy Department and its various officials. It discusses environmental remediation issues as well as budget matters and historic preservation.
As a whole, the board acts as a soft check on the department and a swath of its activities.
Amy Boyette, a spokesperson at the Savannah River Site, told board members the membership package for 2021 was rejected outright "because it did not include enough women applicants" — an issue of representation.
"Recruiting women and minorities has long been a priority for us," she said June 28, "and we do continue to look for innovative ways to reach a more-diverse population and encourage them to apply."
The plan, Boyette explained, is for the Savannah River Site Citizens Advisory Board to proceed as is and to submit a new membership package for 2022. There is confidence, she added, "that we'll be able to increase and improve the board's diversity going forward."
The sitting members represent Aiken, Beaufort, Burke and Richmond counties, spanning South Carolina and Georgia. Two of the six members are women, according to the board's online roster.
The board next meets July 26.