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Cutbacks Could Slow Rockwell Site Cleanup : Simi Valley: Under the Clinton budget, job may be lost at the Santa Susana facility.

April 23, 1993|MYRON LEVIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

With the area already reeling from loss of defense and aerospace jobs, federal officials said that budget cuts proposed by the Clinton Administration would eliminate about 145 jobs next year and slow environmental cleanup work at Rockwell International's laboratory near Simi Valley.

The proposed cuts in support for nuclear research could idle 115 Rockwell employees involved in testing non-nuclear components for atomic reactors, said John Belluardo, a spokesman at the U.S. Department of Energy's San Francisco operations office.

All job losses would occur at the department's Energy Technology Engineering Center, located at Rockwell's Santa Susana Field Laboratory just outside the Simi Valley city limits.

Another 30 workers involved in the multi-year cleanup of contamination from past nuclear research at the lab also could be furloughed under the budget plan, said Lori Circle, spokeswoman for Rockwell's Rocketdyne division, based in Canoga Park.

Rockwell is currently carrying out cleanup work with federal funds, removing radioactive and chemical pollution that exists mainly at low levels in buildings and soil.

The budget proposal would not reduce the scale of the $36-million cleanup, but would delay its completion by stretching the funds over more years. Under the plan, the environmental program's budget, which was $10.4 million this year, would be trimmed to $6.5 million for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

The spending figures, contained in a proposed $19.6-billion Energy Department budget, would require approval by Congress.

Circle said that about 185 workers are employed at the energy technology center, which occupies about 230 acres of the 2,700-acre Santa Susana Field Lab. Much of the lab is used by Rockwell in rocket testing for NASA and other agencies.

A spokesman for Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley), whose district includes the field lab, said Gallegly is "disappointed" by the prospect of layoffs.

From the 1950s until a few years ago, the Santa Susana lab was a flourishing center for nuclear research, where Rockwell operated test reactors and manufactured and recycled nuclear fuel for the Atomic Energy Commission and its successor, the DOE.

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