The Savannah River Site (SRS) on Wednesday night restricted operations to essential staff as Hurricane Michael approached the Aiken, S.C., region where the 310-square-mile Department of Energy facility is located.
In an advisory sent Wednesday afternoon, SRS said it would close its gates to nonessential personnel at 8 p.m. for at least 24 hours. A conference call is scheduled for Thursday at 11 a.m. to determine if normal operations can commence after the 24-hour period. “SRS will continue to monitor the conditions to determine the re-opening of the site for shift change of essential personnel only,” according to the advisory.
It was unclear how many of the site’s 11,000 employees will be part of the reduced workforce. In the past, that has encompassed about 340 employees.
Activating essential personnel staff means SRS will pause work on all nonessential activities. That includes many of its major missions, such as liquid waste treatment, processing of nuclear materials such as highly enriched uranium, and tritium production. Essential personnel focus on keeping the site safe and secure until it is ready to reopen.
Hurricane Michael was at a Category 4 Wednesday when it hit the Florida panhandle at 155 mph. The hurricane is considered life threatening.
Michael is expected to hit the SRS region, located near Aiken and Augusta, Ga., late Wednesday with winds of 55 mph. Tornado watches have already been issued in the area.
Last month, SRS had to brace for potential impacts from Hurricane Florence. However, the site was able to keep operating at a normal level.