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Savannah River Site settlement: Millions coming to SC, plutonium stays

Under the settlement, the federal government now has until 2037 to remove 34 tons of plutonium, a chemical used for nuclear weapon fuel, that is sitting on the site.

BARNWELL COUNTY, S.C. — At the State House Tuesday, lawmakers discussed how to spend $525 million from the Savannah River Site settlement. The plant received the funds from the federal government, but the plutonium they were hoping to get rid of is staying for now.

Now, lawmakers are pushing for the bulk of the funds to go to the counties surrounding the site: Aiken, Barnwell and Allendale.

“When we get this settlement, we think it’s our turn to ask for reimbursement for some of the sacrifice we’ve given over time,” said Senator Brad Hutto, who represents Orangeburg and parts of Allendale and Barnwell Counties.  

South Carolina received the $525 million from the federal government to settle the Savannah River Site issue.

RELATED: SC gets $600 million from federal government over plutonium from Savannah River Site

Hutto explained that, "the federal government has failed to remove the stored plutonium from the Savannah River Site and it’s failed to fulfill the MOX project promise.”

As Senator Brad Hutto explained, 34 tons of plutonium, a chemical used for nuclear weapon fuel, is sitting on the site. 

The federal MOX project was meant to use the plutonium for nuclear weapons fuel, but was unsuccessful. Now, Hutto argues that the settlement funds deserve to go to the counties that are most impacted.

"There are people who decided not to locate their businesses in Barnwell and Aiken because there’s plutonium in Barnwell," Hutto asserted. "And that’s something that not only we have it now, but because of this settlement, we’re basically going to have it for this next generation.”

Under the settlement, the federal government now has until 2037 to remove the plutonium. 

RELATED: US can label nuke waste as less dangerous to quicken cleanup

Hutto proposed that the bulk of funds from the settlement go to Barnwell, Aiken and Allendale Counties to help create new jobs. He wants Lexington and Orangeburg Counties paid, too, since many Savannah River Site employees live there.

Senator Young of Aiken said during the committee hearing that, "the settlement funds are intended to pay for the economic impacts from storing plutonium and not finishing the MOX project.”

Lawmakers can spend the funds however they want, but those that represent the affected counties hope they choose to help their communities.

The Senate committee will make recommendations on allocations, and the General Assembly will likely take it up in January. 

In addition to this Savannah River Site money, lawmakers will soon decide how to spend over $2 billion from the American Rescue Plan.

RELATED: 3 South Carolina universities part of $3.8 billion DOE contract at Savannah River National Laboratory

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