SRS Sign, LWVSC

An entrance to the Savannah River Site, which is about 30 minutes south of Aiken. SRS comprises 310 square-miles.

The League of Women Voters of South Carolina opposes the production of nuclear weapon cores, known as pits, in the Palmetto State, a stance that starkly contrasts with the open arms of some state lawmakers and other local officials.

The nonpartisan political group, a branch of the larger League of Women Voters, renewed its resistance last Tuesday in a lengthy announcement.

There's already enough plutonium and waste at the Savannah River Site, and there are already enough nuclear weapons in play throughout the world, the state group argued, for a local pit production mission to be necessary.

"More warheads do not contribute to world safety or to a growing economy," the statement reads. "The purpose appears to be solely to provide SRS jobs and sustain a failing nuclear industry."

The Savannah River Site is an active cleanup site under the purview of the Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management. Environmental Management is charged with remediating the nation's Cold War and government-sponsored energy research legacy.

The site, about 30 minutes south of Aiken, is home to millions of gallons of nuclear waste, stored in underground tanks, and metric tons of plutonium, kept in a retrofitted reactor facility.

Pit production, the state league worries, could compromise cleanup.

In May 2018, the National Nuclear Security Administration and the U.S. Department of Defense recommended producing pits in two states: South Carolina, at SRS, and New Mexico, at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The Savannah River Site would pump out 50 pits per year, according to the joint recommendation. At Los Alamos in New Mexico, production would be 30 pits per year.

At least 80 pits per year are needed by 2030, according to the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, a leading Pentagon nuclear policy document. Critics, though, have questioned the need for more pits – and the government's ability to successfully produce them.

Nuclear and defense officials have said the 2030 deadline is aggressive. Pit production, according to a Congressional Budget Office review, could cost $9 billion over the next decade.

Suzanne Rhodes, who monitors nuclear waste for the League of Women Voters of South Carolina, on Thursday said pit production would amount to more waste in the state and more weapons for the country.

"Yeah," she said, "we're definitely against it."

Colin Demarest covers the Savannah River Site, the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Nuclear Security Administration and government in general. Follow him on Twitter: @demarest_colin