Columbia, SC • Monitors a host of energy and nuclear issues from a public interest perspective
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Tom Clements, who serves as the director of Savannah River Site Watch, was born in Savannah, Georgia and attended Emory University and the University of Georgia, where he obtained a Masters in Forest Resources in 1977. He has worked for the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Office of Surface Mining and for the past 25 years has worked on nuclear issues for Greenpeace International, the Nuclear Control Institute, the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, Friends of the Earth, the South Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club, and since January 2014 as the director of Savannah River Site Watch. He lived over a decade in the Washington, DC area, where he worked on nuclear proliferation issues policy issues and has spoken and written on U.S. and international nuclear issues and has been quoted extensively by the media. Clements monitors a host of energy and nuclear issues from a public interest perspective and has focused on the Department of Energy, with a specialty in DOE’s Savannah River Site (SRS) located in South Carolina. While monitoring various Department of Energy and Nuclear Regulatory Commission projects, he focuses on risks associated with high-level nuclear waste and plutonium management at the Savannah River Site. He is working to stop SRS from becoming a storage site for the nation’s highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel from commercial power plants as well as leading an effort for Congress to defund the controversial plutonium fuel (MOX) program at the site. He also led an intervention before the South Carolina Public Service Commission in 2008 against approval of construction of SCE&G new nuclear reactors and continues to track that project as well as proposals for other new reactors and the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel.
Tom ran for U.S. Senate in South Carolina in 2010 with the Green Party and garnered about 10% of the vote, the largest percentage nationwide that year of any third party candidate for federal office. He also served two years in the Peace Corps in Costa Rica (1986-1988) and immediately before moving to Columbia, South Carolina in 2007, served a year with a human rights group in Colombia, South America.
Tom was recently a member of the Columbia Tree and Appearance Commission and works as a volunteer with the local Red Cross “Disaster Assistance Team”
and the “Inclement Weather Center in Columbia, SC, a homeless shelter that is open in winter months.
SRS Watch remains an active member of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA), ,a coalition of grassroots citizens groups working near DOE sites across the country.
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Major SRS-Related Successes with which Tom Clements and SRS Watch have been affiliated
Victory: Helped stop operation of the Allied General Nuclear Fuel Services (AGNS) reprocessing plant, adjacent to SRS and commonly known as “Barnwell,” resulting in no shipment of commercial spent fuel to the facility and no associated nuclear waste streams from reprocessing of that spent fuel; late 1970s;
Victory: Opposed restart and operation of the L-Reactor for production of nuclear weapons materials; reactor restarted 1985 and the shut permanently in 1988;
Victory: Opposed restart and operation of the K-Reactor for nuclear weapons materials – primarily tritium; reactor briefly operated in 1992 and then shut permanently;
— Opposed construction of costly new cooling tower for the reactor.
Victory: Defeated efforts for the “New Production Reactor” (NPR) – known as the “New Pork-Barrel Reactor,” for production of nuclear weapons materials at SRS; ~1988 to 1992; program terminated;
Victory: Opposed the “Modern Pit Facility” (MPF) for production of the plutonium “pits” (triggers) for nuclear weapons; ~2003-2004; program terminated;
Victory: Opposed the effort under the “Global Nuclear Energy Partnership” (GNEP) for “fast” reactors and reprocessing of commercial spent fuel at SRS; ~2006-2009; program abandoned;
Victory: Opposed the “Energy Park” scheme at SRS, for sodium-cooled fast reactors and commercial reprocessing; the idea withered after much hype by DOE and Savannah River Nuclear Solutions but strong opposition by SRS Watch
Victory for now: Opposed policies to bring spent commercial fuel to SRS for “consolidated interim storage” (and reprocessing); 2013, 2014
Victory: In conjunction with Friends of the Earth, helped defeat plans by South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G) to build new nuclear reactors in South Carolina. The project was opposed in 2009, when first presented to the South Carolina Public Service Commission. And in 2017 and 2018, SRS Watch led the public fight to stop billing of costs to SCE&G ratepayers, via an intervention with the PSC. The project was terminated in July 2017 after $11 billion was wasted, money which should have gone to alternative energy. Ratepayers are being stuck with an additional cost of $2.3 billion, to be paid over 20 years, with resultant profits to SCE&G and Dominion, which has now taken over SCE&G.
Victory (and a big one): Opposed the plutonium fuel (MOX) program; actively opposed since its inception in mid-1990s, with support constant for immobilization of plutonium in existing high-level nuclear waste. After a waste of about $7 billion, the bungled MOX project was terminated in October 2018. Investigations by congress, federal attorneys and agencies into fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement at the MOX boondoggle are needed.
Conclusion: Costly, misguided efforts at SRS for large, complex projects that add to the SRS nuclear waste burden have faced stiff opposition from the public and fiscal conservatives and will continue to do so. Though several billions of dollars were perhaps spent on planning and initial implementation of the above-named programs, the defeat of them has saved the tax payer tens of billions of dollars. Likewise these victories for the public have resulted in far less nuclear waste at SRS than would be the case if any of the programs had been fully carried out (which would have placed even more strain on DOE’s clean-up budget).