Politics & Government

U.S. government ordered to remove deadly nuclear substance from South Carolina

Mixed Oxide fuel factory at Savannah River Site. The federal government is moving to quit construction on it before the nuclear fuel factory project is completed because of the expense.
Mixed Oxide fuel factory at Savannah River Site. The federal government is moving to quit construction on it before the nuclear fuel factory project is completed because of the expense. Photo courtesy of High Flyer

South Carolina officials celebrated a victory Friday after a U.S. court ruled the federal government must remove a metric ton of plutonium from the state, according to a statement from the S.C. Attorney General’s Office.

The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an earlier ruling ordering the U.S. Department of Energy to remove the element from the Palmetto State by the beginning of 2020, according to the statement.

The Savannah River Site, near Aiken, is home to a weapons complex with a surplus of plutonium. The government had plans to build a mixed oxide fuel factory near the site, but construction was stopped.

Advocates, including S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson worried that not building the plant would leave deadly nuclear plutonium in South Carolina.

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Congress passed a law requiring that the nuclear substance be removed from the Savannah River Site by 2016 if the mixed oxide fuel facility’s production objective was not met by 2014, according to the statement. When the deadline came and went, the state sued the Department of Energy in 2016.

Initially, a U.S. federal judge ruled on the side of the state of South Carolina. The Department of Energy appealed the decision, but it was upheld Friday, according to the statement.

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