WASHINGTON - South Carolina will get 30 days' notice before the Department of Energy ships plutonium to the state, and the agency must have a plan on how to dispose of the material, according to a defense bill on the president's desk.
The provisions were included in the $343 billion bill passed by the House and the Senate on Thursday. President Bush is expected to sign the bill into law.
"I don't believe DOE will ship plutonium to the state until we have an agreement, but we're not taking any chances," said U.S. Rep. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
By Feb. 1, 2002, the bill says the Energy Department should submit to Congress:
Gov. Jim Hodges and other state and federal leaders became concerned this fall that nuclear material about to be shipped from Colorado to the Savannah River Site near Aiken would permanently stay in South Carolina.
Their concerns grew after The New York Times quoted unnamed sources as saying the Energy Department might abandon the project to convert plutonium from nuclear weapons into fuel for nuclear power plants.
Mr. Hodges said indefinite storage at SRS was unacceptable, and he threatened to lie down on the highway if necessary to block the trucks from entering South Carolina. The shipments have since been postponed.
Mr. Hodges said Friday he "appreciates our delegation holding the feds' feet to the fire," but still remained concerned about DOE making SRS "the nation's plutonium dumping ground."
Attorney General Charlie Condon said the bill "was good news" for the state.
"I'm certain that the president will see to it that this material is not permanently stored in South Carolina, but we do have to work out the details," said Mr. Condon, who spoke about the issue with Mr. Bush when the president spoke at The Citadel on Tuesday.