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

Agreement ends state's battle with United States government over issues related to 9.5 metric tons of plutonium stored at SRS facility.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina will get $600 million as part of a settlement that for now ends a lengthy and costly battle between the state and the federal government over what to do with plutonium at the Savannah River Site

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson announced the decision Monday morning, calling it the largest single deal in the history of South Carolina. 

Under the terms of the of the settlement, the United States will pay South Carolina $600 million immediately, and the Department of Energy (DOE) remains obligated to remove the remaining 9.5 metric tons of plutonium by 2037.

The money comes from fines that were agreed upon years ago if the federal government didn't remove the waste by January 1, 2016. 

DOE will have 16-and-a-half years to complete the removal of the plutonium or face monetary penalties and be subject to further litigation. It also allows the government to come up with a solution for what to do with the material without having to also fight South Carolina in court over it. 

“This settlement is the single largest settlement in South Carolina’s history. It is important to me that the people of South Carolina know of our long-term commitment to preventing South Carolina from becoming a dumping ground for nuclear waste,” said Wilson.

“Additionally, the more than half a billion dollars in settlement money could not come at a better time as our state government and economy work to overcome the revenue shortfalls caused by the COVID-19 pandemic."

Wilson said he'll work with the governor and the General Assembly to determine how best to use that money. 

US Congressman Joe Wilson, Alan Wilson's father, sent out a statement regarding the settlement Monday afternoon. In it, Rep. Wilson writes "These funds should go directly to the communities that were most impacted by DOE ending the Mixed-Oxide Fuel Fabrication (MOX) Facility project."

Joe Wilson represents South Carolina's 2nd District in Washington, DC. His constituents include residents of Aiken, Barnwell and Lexington counties and portions of Orangeburg and Richland counties.

A DOE site, SRS encompasses 310 square miles in parts of Aiken, Barnwell and Allendale counties and is bordered by the Savannah River on the west. Aiken, SC, and Augusta, GA, are the two closest cities.

In 2016, then-governor Nikki Haley wanted Wilson to sue DOE for the agency's failure to remove plutonium from SRS's inoperative mixed-oxide project (MOX). MOX was supposed to turn weapons-grade plutonium into commercial nuclear reactor fuel but the project fell years behind in completion and was never functional.

Rep. Wilson says, “The counties of Aiken, Allendale, and Barnwell were most impacted by the 1,700 jobs lost due to the DOE’s abandonment of MOX. I look forward to working with local community leaders for job recovery. Through economic development initiatives, academic investment, and rural broadband deployment, we can utilize these reparation funds exactly how the provisions in law outlined and create meaningful jobs in the Second District.”

Click here to read Rep. Joe Wilson's letter.

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