Originally created 06/14/02

Activists turn out to support Hodges



AIKEN - Gov. Jim Hodges may have been in right-leaning Aiken County, but he had lots of left-leaning support for his lawsuit Thursday against the Department of Energy.

A number of groups, including Greenpeace International and the Green Party, turned out to listen to the governor's case to halt the shipment of plutonium to Savannah River Site.

Some of them silently observed the courtroom proceedings. Others distributed fliers outside and talked with passers-by.

Each of the political action groups might have had a slightly different agenda, but their message, as echoed on yellow signs, was the same: "Keep it in Colorado!"

Harry Rogers, a spokesman for the Carolina Peace Resource Center, said his group wants the Department of Energy to maintain the status quo until a better solution can be found for the excess plutonium.

The federal government has said it wants to move the plutonium so it can begin cleanup at the Rocky Flats installation.

Officials have said they hope to store the plutonium at SRS temporarily, until a plan to convert the material into fuel can be finalized.

But Mr. Rogers said the mixed-oxide fuel doesn't have a safe, proven track record. And he said SRS isn't as well-equipped to store the waste as a site specifically built for that purpose.

"It's safer at Rocky Flats than it is here," he said.

Members of Greenpeace said the federal government hasn't done all the environmental research it needs to make sure it is acting responsibly.

Green Party members simply objected to the transportation of more nuclear materials into the state.

Other organizations represented were the South Carolina Progressive Network, the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Georgians Against Nuclear Energy, the Sierra Club and Physicians for Social Responsibility.

But the DOE also had its share of supporters. H.A. "Mac" McClearen, a former SRS employee, attended the hearing out of personal interest. He said the transport of plutonium and its planned conversion make sense.

"The good guys are over there, in my opinion," he said, motioning to the DOE legal team.

Reach Eric Williamson at (803) 279-6895 or eric.williamson@augustachronicle.com.