| CHARLESTON, S.C., March 18
CHARLESTON, S.C., March 18 South Carolina sued
the U.S. Department of Energy on Tuesday over the federal
government's plans to scrap a plutonium recycling plant that has
been under construction for years in the state, arguing it
violates a nuclear non-proliferation treaty with Russia.
The plant, called MOX for Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication
Facility, was intended to turn leftover weapons-grade plutonium
into commercial nuclear reactor fuel.
But in a budget request to Congress last week for the fiscal
year 2015, the National Nuclear Security Administration proposed
suspending the plant, citing cost overruns for the $30 billion
project, which is about 60 percent complete.
"The MOX fuel approach is not viable within available
resources," the agency said.
The lawsuit filed in federal court asks a judge to force the
federal government to continue funding it.
A Department of Energy spokesman could not be immediately
reached for comment.
Scrapping the project would violate a United States nuclear
nonproliferation agreement with Russia that includes plans to
get rid of weapons-grade plutonium, South Carolina Attorney
General Alan Wilson told reporters.
South Carolina also wants to protect the jobs of 1,800
workers at the plant, Wilson said.
Republican Governor Nikki Haley said the federal government
was reneging on a promise to the state to get rid of nuclear
materials through the project.
Savannah River Site, which is located in the city of Aiken
near the Georgia border, produced about 36 tonnes of
plutonium from 1953 to 1988, according to its website.
"In South Carolina when I was raised by my parents, your
word meant something," Haley said.
"In Washington, D.C., that's no longer the case. Now we have
a facility that D.C. started, and plutonium sitting there, and
now you're going to stop MOX? We're not going to stand back and
take it. They have messed with the wrong state."
Tom Clements, an adviser to the South Carolina chapter of
the Sierra Club, which has long opposed the project, said South
Carolina has no regulatory or fiscal say over the federal
Savannah River Site.
"The governor is engaged in some political theater that will
cost the taxpayer money and will not accomplish what she is
setting out to do," said Clements, who said he has followed the
MOX project since its inception in the 1990s.
"The problem with the MOX program is that there's $25 billion
left to spend and the government doesn't have that money," he
(Editing by Kevin Gray and Lisa Shumaker)