South Carolina seeks $100 million from
U.S. over plutonium removal
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[August 09, 2017]
By Harriet McLeod
CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) - South Carolina
is suing the U.S. government to recover $100 million in fines it says
the Department of Energy owes the state for failing to remove one metric
ton of plutonium stored there, state Attorney General Alan Wilson said
The lawsuit, filed on Monday, is the state's largest case ever against
the U.S. government, Wilson said in a news release.
Congress approved fines of $1 million per day for the first 100 days of
each year through 2021, beginning last year, if the weapons-grade
plutonium was not removed from the Savannah River Site at the state's
border with Georgia, the attorney general's office said.
The lawsuit seeks money owed this year. The state is still working on a
claim for 2016 fines as well, Wilson said.
The federal government cannot break its obligations and "leave South
Carolina as the permanent dumping ground for weapons-grade plutonium,"
Wilson, a Republican, said in the complaint.
A Department of Energy spokeswoman said the agency does not comment on
Built in the 1950s, the U.S.-owned Savannah River Site processes and
stores nuclear materials in support of national defense and U.S. nuclear
A U.S. treaty with Russia in 2000 required each country to dispose of 34
metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium, left over from the Cold War.
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The United States began building a mixed oxide fuel fabrication
facility, known as the MOX project, at the Savannah River Site to
dispose of weapons-grade plutonium by mixing it with uranium to form
safer fuel pellets for use in commercial nuclear reactors.
But the project is years overdue and billions over budget, and the
technology for the new fuel fabrication is not fully developed. Russian
President Vladimir Putin last October pulled out of the plutonium pact
amid rising tensions over Ukraine and Syria.
The Trump administration proposed in the fiscal year 2018 budget to
scrap the project and pursue diluting the plutonium and disposing it
underground, an alternative called for by the Obama administration.
(Reporting by Harriet McLeod; Additional reporting by Timothy Gardner;
Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Andrew Hay)
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