Counties sue South Carolina over federal plutonium deal

State - Regional

FILE – In this Sept. 29, 1994 file photo, a CSX Train with spent nuclear fuel passes through Florence, S.C., on its way to Savannah River Site Weapons Complex near Aiken S.C. Nevada and South Carolina were jostling for a home-field advantage of sorts in a federal court battle that could result in a metric ton of weapons-grade plutonium being stored 70 miles from Las Vegas. A federal appeals court has ruled against Nevada in a legal battle over the U.S. government’s secret shipment of weapons-grade plutonium to a site near Las Vegas. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019, denied the state’s appeal after a judge refused to block any future shipments to Nevada. The court in San Francisco says the matter is moot because the Energy Department already sent the radioactive material and has promised that no more will be hauled there. (Jeff Chatlosh/The Morning News via AP, File)

BARNWELL, S.C. (AP) — A lawsuit against the state of South Carolina said a $600 million federal settlement over nuclear waste should go to the seven counties near the Savannah River Site instead of the whole state budget.

The lawsuit said those counties were the most hurt when the federal government failed to follow its agreement to remove tons of plutonium from the site near Aiken when a plan to convert what was once fuel for nuclear weapons into fuel to power nuclear reactors fell apart.

Allendale and Barnwell counties filed the suit, along with the Southern Carolina Alliance, an economic development group that represents Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties, The State newspaper reported.

The lawsuit said not only did hundreds of jobs fail to materialize when the project fell through, but the stigma of having nuclear material remain in the area prevented businesses from coming to the area.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson negotiated the deal with the federal government, which included that the money go to the state budget.

“We believe the lawsuit has no merit and we will respond appropriately. Our office will follow the law that says the General Assembly has the sole ability to appropriate funds,” Wilson’s office said in a statement.

The settlement gives the federal government 20 more years to remove the plutonium.


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