Despite receiving the green light from Gov. Nikki Haley last week, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson has not set a timetable for when he will file suit against the U.S. Department of Energy for failing to meet statutory obligations regarding its mixed-oxide project at Savannah River Site.
In a statement last week, Wilson said South Carolina “cannot sit quietly” after the Energy Department didn’t remove 1 metric ton of plutonium by the promised Jan. 1 deadline.
According to The Associated Press, the MOX facility is being built to turn the plutonium into nuclear reactor fuel, but the material was supposed to be removed from the state by the deadline if the facility wasn’t in operation. The project is several years behind schedule and at least $3 billion over its original budget, according to the Government Accountability Office.
“We have great concern over the actions displayed by the DOE over the last two years and do not feel they can be trusted to follow the law,” Wilson said. “Over the last two years, the DOE had wasted hundreds of millions of dollars in legal fees as well as billions of dollars in judgments, all at the taxpayers’ expense for breaking contracts.
“At this point, we are finalizing the best possible course of action, but will be taking action as we said we would back in September.”
Hayley Thrift, a public relations coordinator for the attorney general’s office, said Tuesday that no time line has been put forth as to when that action will be taken. Wilson was not available Wednesday to respond to questions about what those courses of action could be.
As part of the agreement with the state, the federal government could be asked to pay $1 million a day or $100 million annually until the plutonium is removed or the MOX facility is operational, according to The Associated Press.
Wilson’s father, U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, applauded Haley last week for taking action on the former with the hopes that the latter will follow close behind.
“The administration must complete construction of MOX – the only viable method at this time of disposing of the plutonium,” he said. “We cannot allow our state to become a repository of high-level, weapons-grade plutonium.”
This isn’t the first time South Carolina had to consider legal avenues available to the state, Alan Wilson said.
“In 2011, we fought to ensure completion of the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository and were successful,” he said.