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Senate Armed Services Committee Holds Hearing on FY2004 Defense Authorization: Energy Department Weapons Programs

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Senate Armed Services Committee Holds Hearing on FY2004 Defense Authorization: Energy Department Weapons
Programs

CHAMBLISS:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and likewise.

Mr. Secretary, I want to associate myself with the remarks of my colleague from South Carolina, Mr. Graham. We have worked very closely together on any number of issues at the Savannah River Site, and you know of my keen interest, and I have expressed it to Jody (ph) and other members of your staff over the last couple of years. The primary concern that I have about SRS is from a security standpoint. I know we read the threats that exist out there with respect to potential attacks of terrorism occurring at our nuclear power plants.

We have two in our state, as you know, Plant Vogle and Plant Hatch. Plant Hatch is in my old congressional district, and I've spent an awful lot of time there, and I've also spent time at Plant Vogle. And, very honestly, while we're always vulnerable at any site in America, I think that with regard to security, Southern Company and the other owners of those two nuclear power plants have done a good job with respect to securing the facilities, and with the guidelines coming from Washington regarding construction of those plants, I feel very good about the security of the plant in the event the perimeter lines were breached.

But I am concerned about security at facilities such as Savannah River Site from a nuclear waste storage standpoint, and I'd like for you to comment to us about what you've done there, what's in this budget, what do we expect to need to do at sites like Savannah River Site regarding nuclear storage.

ABRAHAM:

Well, our cost cutting, if you will, security proposal in the budget calls for about a $1.2 billion complex-wide security allocation. To use Savannah River as an example, among the sorts of things which we have done to try to enhance security, particularly in the wake of 9-11, is to increase access controls to create an inner site perimeter, to add armed guards, to extend the buffer zone at the site, to initiate patrols along the river, guards at the tank farms. Similar kinds of things are going on in other parts of the complex.

But as I always try to make clear when we have these hearings, we've tried to also increase our monitoring and our flexibility to make changes where it's called for. We really believe that the security posture has to be reviewed on a very frequent basis. Our security teams are doing that. We're in the process of basically reexamining our design basis threat on an ongoing basis to make adjustments where called for, and we're certainly—if we feel that there is a change that's needed, obviously, we will place that kind of funding priority at the top of any request we'd make to Congress, or if we have to within the site itself, we will make those adjustments to reprogram money if we have to to make sure that any newly emerging concerns can be quickly dealt with.

CHAMBLISS:

I appreciate that very much, and the folks in our area will be glad to hear that, too. I want to echo also what Lindsey said with respect to Jeff Allison (ph). Bringing him on as site manager has been a good fit, and we look forward to continuing the work we do to bring all the assets we can to Savannah River Site.

Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

ABRAHAM:

Thank you, Senator.

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