Haley supports nuclear waste transfer



AIKEN --- South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley chastised the Obama administration Thursday for policies that keep nuclear waste in South Carolina from moving to a storage facility in Nevada.

Haley, who toured Savannah River Site, said she'd like to create a coalition with other governors to move the waste to Yucca Mountain in Nevada as originally planned.

"My concern is that this is still an issue and the federal government has spent about $20 billion in development and $1.2 billion from South Carolina taxpayers has gone toward the project," said the Republican state representative from Lexington.

Haley and state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Camden, are vying to succeed Gov. Mark Sanford.

Yucca Mountain, 90 miles from Las Vegas, was being designed to accommodate radioactive material now stored at 121 temporary sites in 39 states, including SRS, where high-level wastes are stored in steel cylinders that were to be shipped elsewhere.

President Obama and Energy Secretary Steven Chu opted last year to cancel further work on the project. A 15-member blue ribbon panel isn't expected to make recommendations on the site's opening until 2011.

"Yucca Mountain is the appropriate place to store nuclear waste, and we cannot allow South Carolina to become a permanent dumping ground," said Haley.

Haley toured SRS to evaluate its function as part of a 10-year business outlook for the state, and met with leaders from contracted agencies URS and Savannah River Remediation.

SRR was cited Tuesday in the Government Accountability Office audit of a $3.2 billion Department of Energy contract to seal 22 underground liquid radioactive waste tanks by 2017. The audit found costs were not comprehensive and had risen by $1.5 billion and the project was not on schedule for completion.

Haley said she was pleased to see the liquid waste cleanup being completed effectively and efficiently and that the site -- like most other businesses -- was having to do more with less in recent years.

She touted SRS as an "amazing resource" for the state that should be a talking point along with the Upstate's BMW manufacturing and the Low Country's Boeing start-up.

Reach Julia Sellers at (803) 648-1395, ext. 111 or julia.sellers@augustachronicle.com.