When I was writing my column about Chem-Nuclear’s latest attempt to have its way with our Legislature, I came across an editorial I wrote in 2007 about what then was the company’s latest attempt to … have its way with our Legislature.
It seems like good reading nearly eight years later — and not just because it includes one of my favorite editorial words, which you should all feel free to guess, for extra credit.
So, here, mysterious favorite word and all, it is:
Barnwell dump defines what kind of state we are
IF SOUTH CAROLINA’S relationship with Chem-Nuclear were a play, the script would read like this ACT I
LEGISLATURE: We’re tired of being the nation’s nuclear pay toilet. We’re kicking the rest of the country out of our Barnwell landfill, and you can’t stop us.
CHEM-NUCLEAR: But your utilities will have no place to bury their waste, and nuclear waste will pile up at unregulated sites across the state. Besides, you could make a killing off the taxes.
LEGISLATURE: OK. But just for a few more years. Then we’re putting our foot down. We mean it.
CHEM-NUCLEAR: OK. Fair enough.
ACT II: Repeat ACT I.
ACT III: Repeat ACT II.
We’re now in ACT IV. Or ACT V. We lose count. Again, the deadline is fast approaching to cut off the rest of the nation and preserve the dwindling space for South Carolina’s utilities. Once again, Chem-Nuclear has hired up all the big-name lobbyists to get the deadline extended, raising the specter that “‘mini-Barnwells’ might spring up” statewide if the Legislature doesn’t back down and give in and sell out — again.
About the only new twist is that the company isn’t dangling new tens of millions in front of us. Maybe because it’s a good budget year. Maybe because the lobbyists know legislators aren’t that gullible — previous promises have never been met. Maybe because we long ago established what we are, and even settled on an embarrassingly low price, without haggling.
This time, Chem-Nuclear is hyping the threat: The landfill won’t be “financially viable” if it can’t accept waste from all comers. Poppycock. Chem-Nuclear knew in 2000 that cutting off other states would reduce the money, yet it agreed to the plan. Besides, Energy Solutions just bought Chem-Nuclear last year. Either it’s still a money maker or else the company was betting that our Legislature would roll over. Again.
The United States needs nuclear power, Energy Solutions is on the right track in trying to be a comprehensive nuclear company, and it’s important to deal with nuclear waste as a nation instead of individual states. But South Carolina has been doing its part since 1971. And if we ever stick to our guns, we’ll still do what only two other states do: manage our own waste. That is, if we don’t sell off all our space first.
The question is simple: Do we want to keep burying the nation’s waste? Supporters say we bury only a tiny fraction of the nation’s waste, but as long as we own one of just two sites open to all comers, and as long as we own the only site that accepts decommissioned nuclear reactors — one of the main reasons Energy Solutions cites to keep the place open to the rest of the nation — we are the nation’s nuclear dump. We think we’ve held that title long enough.
Will we lose money if we give up the title? Of course so. Just like we lost money when we shut down video poker. Just like we could gain money if we legalized prostitution. Or cocaine. The question is what kind of state we want to be. It’s whether there’s anything our legislators won’t do for a buck. It’s a matter of integrity.