U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham plans to address at length the status of the Savannah River Site with President Donald Trump’s pick to be the next deputy secretary of energy, the second-in-command at the U.S. Department of Energy.
“I know Mark,” Graham, R-S.C., said Monday of Mark Menezes, the nominee and current under secretary of energy. “We’ll have a long discussion about the future of the site before I vote. The site’s had a lot of great successes and a lot of disasters.”
Trump tapped Menezes to be deputy secretary of energy earlier this year.
In May, Menezes breezed through a nomination hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, headed by Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski. Earlier this month, Murkowski’s committee favorably reported the nomination to the full Senate – an indication of confidence and support.
Exactly when the Senate will vote on the Menezes nomination is not clear.
The No. 2 spot at the Energy Department is open following Dan Brouillette’s confirmation as secretary of energy. Brouillette succeeds Rick Perry, the former Texas governor who abruptly left the DOE at the end of 2019 amid a mounting presidential impeachment probe.
The Energy Department’s nuclear cleanup office, Environmental Management, oversees the Savannah River Site south of Aiken. The site, home to millions of gallons of nuclear waste and myriad national defense missions, is a major economic engine for both South Carolina and eastern Georgia.
Graham has long been involved at the Savannah River Site and on Monday said he would “fight” for robust funding this budget cycle. The National Nuclear Security Administration’s 2018 decision to ax the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility project at SRS – a favorite of Graham’s – roiled South Carolina lawmakers and officials.
“We start programs,” the senior senator said Monday, “we stop programs.”