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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Statement by Joseph Buggy

Executive Vice President, Westinghouse Savannah River Company

Before the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services

March 19, 1998



Thank you Mr. Chairman, members of the committee and staff. My name is Joe Buggy. I'm Executive Vice President of Westinghouse Savannah River Company.

 We manage and operate the Savannah River Site near Aiken, South Carolina, under a contract with the Department of Energy.

It's my pleasure to be with you this morning to offer an operating contractor's perspective on the status of our efforts in support of our nation's stockpile stewardship during this crucial period of adjustment in the nuclear weapons complex.

 The decisions made this year on budgets and our approach to stockpile stewardship will have a profound effect on our nuclear deterrent posture in the future.

 I'll try to present a practical point of view from an operation that has reliably and safely met the nation's requirements for defense nuclear materials for almost a half century.

 It's something we're proud of and continue to do as we shift from the Cold War climate of the '50s, '60s, '70s and '80s to safely maintain a smaller, but enduring stockpile in the new national security realities of today.

 As the nation's sole producers of tritium since the first hydrogen weapon, the men and women at Savannah River have adapted to the demands of a shrinking stockpile and shrinking budgets.

 For example, with no immediate need to produce new tritium, we've focused on recovering and recycling existing tritium from decommissioned weapons to support the nation's enduring stockpile.

 Our tritium operators have extended their decades-old record of 100-percent on-time delivery without a single reliability problem in the field.

 Three years ago - in a start-up the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board termed a "model" for the DOE complex - our employees brought a new tritium processing plant on line to replace facilities dating back to the 1950s.

  Since that time . we have aggressively reengineered our processes and creatively stretched the dollars you've provided us over the past three years to stay ahead of the inevitable deterioration of our older facilities.

 Those efforts have enabled us to steadily upgrade and consolidate our facilities, not only to make our operations more cost effective, but also to substantially improve both environmental and worker protection - important factors underscored by the fact that we're now storing at SRS most of the nation's remaining supply of tritium.

 At the same time - at minimal cost - we have assumed new responsibilities for the tritium work formerly performed at the Mound Plant in Ohio.

 We've also put in place new tritium loading capability for new and improved weapons systems. And we did so ahead of schedule and $3 million under budget.

 Our people continue to stretch the funds you've provided to modernize other critical infrastructure ranging from new computerized process control equipment to installation of more efficient and reliable cooling systems that are so critical to our processes.

 They've also found creative ways to continue to move out of our very maintenance-intensive older facilities and into our new tritium facility.

 This consolidation not only enables us to reap the full environmental benefit of that new underground plant and move away from out-moded 1950s technology, it also has a dramatic impact on our long-term costs with annual operating savings of about $16 million a year once consolidation is complete in the year 2005. That's a rate that pays back in less than six years.

 Those efforts and that funding support need to continue if we're going to maintain our record of safely and reliably meeting the nation's stockpile stewardship requirements.

 On top of the work we're doing to consolidate and maintain our existing infrastructure, we're also pressing ahead with plans to support DOE's dual track strategy to bring a new tritium production source on line for our stockpile needs in the next century.

 To support the commercial light water reactor option, we're on schedule and meeting all of the critical milestones related to the design of a new tritium extraction facility and closely coupling it to our new tritium recycle plant to maximize operational efficiencies.

 In addition, we continue to work hand-in-hand with the Los Alamos-Burns & Roe-Westinghouse Savannah River team on the accelerator as a tritium production source.

 The project continues to surpass our expectations in terms of:

  • the soundness of its technology;
  • its well-defined cost structure, which has been verified in independent peer reviews;
  • the growing recognition of the accelerator's other technology benefits in areas such as scientific research and waste management;
  • all while encountering no institutional or regulatory policy barriers.

 In all of these cases - working to support DOE's dual-track tritium strategy, assuming the Mound activities, modernizing our aging infrastructure, and consolidating our on-site tritium operations - our men and women have worked tirelessly to optimize the vital financial resources you've provided us to find greater economies of scale and bring down long-term costs.

 Your support not only has helped us meet the nation's critical needs for reliable, efficient stockpile stewardship, it's also reenergized our people after the loss of almost 11,000 jobs at the site and a half decade of job uncertainty.

 I encourage you to continue your critical support and provide us with the financial resources we need to stay ahead of the curve on changing stockpile requirements and the need to replace older, inefficient facilities.

 If you do so, I assure you that the men and women at Savannah River will continue to do their part to help the nation safely and reliably meet its stockpile stewardship needs as they have done for the past four decades.


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