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July 17, 2007

Subcommittees Hold First Joint Hearing on Department of Energy’s Decision to End Funding for the Savannah River Ecology Lab

(Washington, DC) The Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee and the Energy and Environment Subcommittee heard testimony today about why the Department of Energy (DOE) has made a decision to withdraw funding for the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory (SREL).

A second hearing on the Subcommittees’ investigation is currently scheduled for August 1, 2007.

“Why did top-level staff at the Department of Energy put so much time and energy into eliminating a lab that costs so little, but makes such enormous contributions to environmental science?” asked Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Brad Miller (D-NC).

Added Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Nick Lampson (D-TX), “The callous treatment of the employees of SREL is disgraceful. Beyond the hardship inflicted on them by the sudden, unexpected job loss – this decision is absurd. It is not in the interest of the people of South Carolina and Georgia, the Savannah River Site, the Department of Energy, or the rest of the nation.”

The mission of the lab is to study the effects of the Savannah River Nuclear Weapons facility on the surrounding environment. It has been recognized internationally as a leader in radiation ecology and a training ground for future scientists and engineers in the field. SREL, housed on the Savannah River nuclear site since 1951 and run by the University of Georgia, costs about $4 million a year to operate out of a $26 billion dollar per year DOE budget.

Dr. Ward Whicker of Colorado State University, a radio-biologist and the winner of DOE’s prestigious Lawrence Prize, testified today about the importance of SREL’s research to a wide scientific community.

“I fully believe that shutting down the SREL is a serious mistake that is not in the national best interest,” said Dr. Whicker. “I sincerely hope that this is realized before it is too late, and that funding for the laboratory can be restored.”

Chairman Miller said the Subcommittees will hear from witnesses, including Department of Energy representatives, at the August 1 hearing about their conduct and their letters to the Subcommittees and to Congress regarding SREL.

For more information on this hearing and past activity on the topic, please follow this link.



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