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S.C. reaches $600M settlement with U.S. Department of Energy

Staff Report //August 31, 2020//

S.C. reaches $600M settlement with U.S. Department of Energy

Staff Report //August 31, 2020//

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The U.S. Department of Energy will remove tons of weapons-grade plutonium from the Savannah River Site and pay the state of South Carolina $600 million under terms of a settlement ending six years of litigation.

The $600 million will be paid immediately, according to S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office, which announced the settlement this morning. The remaining 9.5 million metric tons of plutonium must be removed by 2037. Additional litigation and monetary penalties will apply if that deadline is not met, according to a news release.

“This settlement is the single largest settlement in South Carolina’s history,” Wilson said in the release. “It is important to me that the people of South Carolina know of our long-term commitment to preventing South Carolina from becoming a dumping ground for nuclear waste.

“Additionally, the more than half a billion dollars in settlement money could not come at a better time as our state government and economy work to overcome the revenue shortfalls caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been a long, difficult road but I am proud of the leadership displayed by our state’s elected officials and the expertise of my legal team.”

Wilson’s office said it will work with the General Assembly and S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster to determine how the federal payment will be spent.

The federal government began shipping the plutonium to SRS in 2002 for use in a nuclear fuel factory that was never constructed. Plans for the mixed-oxide fuel manufacturing plant, known as MOX, were canceled in 2018 after billions of dollars had been spent.

“Today, thanks to the hard work of Attorney General Alan Wilson and his legal team, working with Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, South Carolina is receiving what is long overdue,” U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson said in a statement.

Joe Wilson said he wrote a letter to McMaster, Alan Wilson and S.C. legislative leaders requesting that a “significant portion” of the settlement be used in counties near the Savannah River Site.

“The counties of Aiken, Allendale, and Barnwell were most impacted by the 1,700 jobs lost due to the DOE’s abandonment of MOX,” Joe Wilson said.