The Slow Decomposition of Savannah River Ecology Lab

At least they're letting some students finish up before they pull the entire rug out from under them:

The beleaguered Savannah River Ecology Lab hopes to remain open - but with vastly reduced staff and resources - through the end of the year due to commitments that require some scientists and graduate students to fulfill obligations associated with research grants.

"One of our main concerns right now is with these students," said Whit Gibbons, a senior ecologist and University of Georgia professor who has spent decades at the Aiken County lab.

The university, he said, has agreed to support about two dozen students - including seven doctoral and master's degree candidates under Gibbons' supervision - until they complete their programs.

For those that don't know:

The lab, which employed about 110 people, was targeted for closure by the U.S. Energy Department at Savannah River Site, which halved the lab's $8 million contribution to SREL's budget in 2005 and further reduced support to about $1 million in 2006.

About 40 employees lost their jobs June 30 with more cuts on the way.

This article neglects to make clear that these budget started when Bush came into office. In the 1990's their budget hovered around $11 million.

The lab sits near the Savannah River Site (SRS), a large complex of nuclear reactors and refineries put up back in the 1950's. Since then, researchers there have been studying the effects of radiation on the local ecology for decades, and the institute itself has become a symbol of environmental stewardship.

The whole thing is damn mysterious. SREL's demise - an independent, unbiased research facility - seems to coincide with the construction of a new refinery process for more potent nuclear fuel at SRS in the coming months. It might lead one to believe that the federal government doesn't want objective eyes in the area with the coming of new systems.

Students and faculty continue to fight. Josh posted the full e-mail sent out requesting support a while ago.

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