Isakson: SRS Growth Dependent on Election

October 9, 2008

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By Savannah Morning News
ATLANTA - The growth of Savannah River Site would depend on whether John McCain or Barack Obama wins the race for the presidency, Sen. Johnny Isakson said Thursday.
He also expressed concern that politics could impact a major decision before the new president takes office - the location of a giant scientific lab that Athens is bidding for.
The Georgia Republican told Morris News Service politics could significantly impact SRS's future.
Isakson has lobbied for expansion of SRS even though it's in neighboring South Carolina. He said it could create more jobs and accommodate the nation's new nuclear-power plants if it is allowed to begin reprocessing spent fuel rods into new fuel forms.
"We've got almost a half a century of experience at the Savannah River Site at handling processed fissionable material as well as derivatives like tritium safely without any threat to the environment, and it's been a huge job creator for both South Carolina and Georgia, particularly Augusta," Isakson said.

Different philosophies
McCain and Isakson are cosponsors of an amendment to the energy bill that failed earlier this year that would have revamped the nuclear laws and ended the reprocessing ban.
McCain has called for boosting the staff of the Nuclear Regulatory Agency to streamline the approval of applications for new nuclear plants, like the one pending for two new reactors at Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro.
"Obama has been exactly the opposite as far as nuclear power is concerned," Isakson said.
"When you talk about Savannah River Site, I think there is a political consequence because of the philosophy that the Democrats have on nuclear energy versus ours," he said.
Requests for a comment from Obama's Georgia campaign were not immediately answered.

Political interference
Isakson also said he fears there may be the taint of political interference in the decision to pick the location for construction of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, a $451 million lab that will study some of the world's most deadly animal diseases.
Georgia's Athens site is one of five finalists awaiting selection by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security later this year on where it will replace an aging facility that's on Plum Island, N.Y.
Isakson said the Athens site would be close to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Russell Research Center in Athens, which studies poultry.
"I don't think there's any question we have the best location," he said.
Texas, Kansas, Mississippi and North Carolina are also among the finalists.
"When that decision is made, there could be some politics in that," the senator said. "I hope not because this is one of those facilities that shouldn't be determined by politics."
He said he wasn't predicting political influence would be certain but only that he was cautious because of the Mississippi site's initial prominence. Also, Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced Thursday that his state would commit $100 million toward the project if it is built in San Antonio.
Isakson downplayed the impact of protests in Athens against the lab, saying a bigger concern is a growing effort in New York to rebuild on the existing site.
"I don't know how you build a new center on a place where you're operating the center that you've got," he said.