A federal court has ordered plutonium to be removed from South Carolina, the latest twist of a 15 year fight over storing the deadly nuclear material at the Savannah River Site.
Wednesday, the South Carolina Federal District Court issued an order requiring the U.S. Department of Energy to remove one ton of defense plutonium from the state within two years. Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office announced the decision in a news release.
That time period is consistent with the Congressional mandate, instead of the 2025 target date that DOE offered.
The Court also ordered DOE to provide the state and the court with semi-annual progress reports and to certify compliance with the two-year deadline.
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“This ruling is a vindication of the principle of the rule of law and the state’s position that it will not be a dumping ground for plutonium,” Wilson said in a news release. “The state thanks the court for holding DOE accountable, although it is unfortunate that the state had to resort to litigation to ask a federal agency to do what the law requires.”
Wilson filed a lawsuit in August over the DOE’s refusal to remove the plutonium from the Savannah River Site.
“Now, DOE should turn its attention and resources to complying with the order and the law.”
The dispute between the federal government and South Carolina officials dates back to 2002. At issue is whether SRS should keep surplus weapons grade plutonium indefinitely.
The government is building a mixed oxide fuel factory to process the plutonium into fuel for atomic power plants. But the project has cost taxpayers billions of dollars and is in jeopardy of not being finished.
A federal law requires the government to complete the factory and begin processing the plutonium or remove it from South Carolina.