South Carolina governor stands up for state rights

30 August 2001

The US Department of Energy is currently revamping a plan to dispose of 50t of surplus plutonium amid cost overruns, which has prompted threats from South Carolina’s governor to block shipments into the state.

A DoE report concludes that the cost of disposing of the plutonium will be $6.6 billion over 22 years, about 50% more than estimated two years ago. At the same time, the Bush administration has put on hold part of the programme that called for some of the plutonium to be vitrified prior to eventual burial at Yucca Mountain. That decision has brought complaints from South Carolina officials who are concerned that the department will ship tons of plutonium into the state for processing with no assurance that the material would ever leave the state.

“When South Carolina agreed to accept plutonium, the DoE agreed there would be a clear exit strategy,” South Carolina governor Jim Hodges said. He sent a memo to the state public safety director, in charge of the traffic police, telling him to evaluate the possibility of using “highway roadblocks or other measures” to prevent shipments crossing the state line. Hodges accused president Bush of reneging on the previous administration’s promise that any plutonium sent to South Carolina for reprocessing would be shipped out again.

Hodges said he had no intention of letting his state become a permanent nuclear dump. “If it is necessary for me to lie down in front of the trucks, I’ll do that,” he said. “We’re going to do whatever it takes.”

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