Originally created 07/09/02

If legislation passes, DOE could pick our pockets for fine



According to the June 30 Chronicle, Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., and Rep. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have introduced legislation which, if passed, would fine the U.S. Department of Energy "up to $100 million per year" if DOE doesn't meet certain MOX and plutonium-removal time lines at the Savannah River Site.

Just where is DOE going to get the money to pay any fine? That's right, from U.S. taxpayers - including you and me. And to whom will all that windfall go? I suspect the state of South Carolina.

Do taxpayers think those "contributions" will ever be seen again? Not if the money-hungry legislators in Columbia get their hands on it. Remember, the state of South Carolina would not now be in budgetary difficulties if the state legislature had not spent every penny of ample surpluses (hundreds of millions of dollars) that accumulated during fiscal years 1999-2000.

Gov. Jim Hodges, in his stance against bringing the Rocky Flats Plant plutonium to SRS for storage, has a very valid point. There are some 3-5 metric tones (6,600-11,000 lbs.) of plutonium in those forthcoming shipments that cannot be used, in its present state, for MOX or anything else.

That material is worthless scrap. It was to have been stabilized in a new SRS plant for eventual permanent storage. That plant has now been canceled by DOE. How long will that risk remain at SRS?

And where is the quid pro quo for doing all this? Probably the same place as the cost-of-living pension allowance that no Westinghouse Savannah River Co. retiree from SRS has received in 13 years, thanks to Messrs. Thurmond, Graham, the DOE and all the WSRC presidents.

H. Perry Holcomb, North Augusta, S.C.