Counties sue South Carolina over federal plutonium deal

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BARNWELL, S.C. (AP) — A lawsuit against the state of South Carolina said a $600 million federal settlement over nuclear waste should go to the seven counties near the Savannah River Site instead of the whole state budget.

The lawsuit said those counties were the most hurt when the federal government failed to follow its agreement to remove tons of plutonium from the site near Aiken when a plan to convert what was once fuel for nuclear weapons into fuel to power nuclear reactors fell apart.

Allendale and Barnwell counties filed the suit, along with the Southern Carolina Alliance, an economic development group that represents Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties, The State newspaper reported.

The lawsuit said not only did hundreds of jobs fail to materialize when the project fell through, but the stigma of having nuclear material remain in the area prevented businesses from coming to the area.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson negotiated the deal with the federal government, which included that the money go to the state budget.

“We believe the lawsuit has no merit and we will respond appropriately. Our office will follow the law that says the General Assembly has the sole ability to appropriate funds,” Wilson’s office said in a statement.

The settlement gives the federal government 20 more years to remove the plutonium.

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