Navy Restores Funding To Kesselring Site To Keep Reactor Open
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer has announced a naval training facility in Saratoga County that was facing cutbacks will have its funding restored for the current fiscal year.
Schumer announced that the Navy will provide an additional $16 million toward keeping operations open at the Naval Nuclear Propulasion Program, operated by Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory at the Kenneth Kesselring site in West Milton.
Earlier this year, KAPL announced that due to a $151 million federal budget cut, it was facing a possible shutdown of one of its prototype nuclear reactors used to train navy personnel for work on submarines and aircraft carriers.
Schumer’s office says he made personal calls with Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.
Schumer said, “the Navy and DOE heard our case loud and clear and made the right decision that staves off a disruptive and very unwise closure, and provides the financial fuel to keep this absolutely vital nuclear training reactor humming.”
The Democrat said he will work with his Senate colleagues to secure funds in future years.
Area congressional representatives also expressed gratitude for the funding restoration.
Capital District Congressman Paul Tonko worked with Congressman Bill Owens of Northern New York to secure the funding. Tonko said the training program at the Kesselring site is vital not only to the area’s economy but to national defense.
“These sailors are trained specifically to operate these nuclear submarines. They’re very skilled individuals and to have cut back 450 people would have been a serious blow to the Navy operations,” said Tonko.
In a statement emailed to WAMC, Owens echoed sentiments by Tonko and Schumer, saying he hopes “we can find a permanent solution moving forward.”
Todd Shimkus, President and CEO of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, said that if the funding hadn’t been restored, about 100 civilian positions could have been impacted or reassigned.
Shimkus said the Navy’s presence in the region is “enormous.”
“The local operation has about a $500 million annual economic impact on the Capital Region,” said Shimkus. “To give you a quick comparison, the 40-day meet at the Saratoga Race Course has just about a $200 million impact, so it’s big.”
Knolls Atomic spokesman Gene Terwilliger said “KAPL is extremely grateful to Senator Schumer and the New York Congressional delegation for their continued support of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program.”
Approximately 700 Navy and civilian personnel are assigned to the nuclear training reactor that was facing a possible shutdown.