Drones not confirmed at Savannah River Site, report says
Aiken County was abuzz in 2016 with multiple reports of drones supposedly spotted flying over the Savannah River Site.
But a new report released last week states none of the 12 reported sightings have been confirmed.
A U.S. Department of Energy report stated four of the 12 possible sightings were never confirmed. The other eight were referred to appropriate authorities for further investigation, DOE records state.
None of the eight reported sightings, however, were verified.
“Eight preliminary reports of (drone) sightings have been received,” the DOE report said. “Based on follow-up assessments and inquiries no (drones) were located or confirmed.”
The DOE findings were presented last week during a Savannah River Site Citizens Advisory Board, or CAB, meeting.
The first drone sighting was reported June 19, the first in a flurry of reported sightings.
Some drones were reportedly spotted over K-Area, an old building where plutonium is currently housed. Others have been spotted over H-Area, E-Area and the Mixed Oxide, or MOX, fuel fabrication facility.
“Although airspace over the SRS is not currently restricted, these flights do pose a safety and security concern,” an SRS representative said in a previous prepared statement.
SRS Watch, a nuclear watchdog group, labeled the original drone reports as “fake news” in a post to the organization’s Facebook page.
Tom Clements with SRS Watch said two FBI agents questioned him about the drones shortly after the first sightings in June 2016.
SRS watch periodically releases aerial photos of the Savannah River Site, but insists its photos comply with all federal regulations and the group wasn’t involved in the drones reportedly spotted over SRS.
“I affirmed that as my work is legal and in the public service and I told them that I would not be intimidated by them,” Clements said via email.
SRS Watch on Monday also released new aerial photos of the MOX facility at the Savannah River Site.
SRS Watch stated on social media the new MOX photos were legally taken on Friday, May 26.
One of the photos also shows two AP 1000 reactors at Plant Vogtle in Burke County, Georgia, a facility that’s facing its own setbacks relating to lead contractor Westinghouse’s declaration of Chapter 11 bankruptcy on March 29.
MOX, which would convert defense plutonium into fuel for commercial reactors and is about 70 percent complete, faces an uncertain future.
The facility has received bare bones funding in recent years. Congress allocated $335 million in its proposed budget, while President Donald Trump wants to shut down MOX altogether, continuing the policies of former President Barack Obama.