ORDERS S.C. GOV. ON PLUTONIUM
Associated Press, June 18, 2002
By Jacob Jordan
Aiken, S.C. - A federal judge Tuesday prohibited Gov. Jim Hodges
from blocking government shipments of bomb-grade plutonium to South
Carolina that could begin as early as this weekend.
"It is a sad day for South Carolina when the governor, who has
an oath to uphold the Constitution, must be ordered by a court to obey
it," U.S. District Judge Cameron Currie said.
On Friday, Hodges sent state police to the government's Savannah
River Site weapons installation near the Georgia state line to stop
vehicles carrying the radioactive material, which is to be brought in
from the closed Rocky Flats weapons plant in Colorado.
The governor said he would abide by the judge's order.
"Against our will, the blockade is over," Hodges said. "I
apologize for our efforts, our suit or our blockade."
The Energy Department wants to move about 6 tons of plutonium to
Savannah River as part of the agency's effort to clean up and close
Rocky Flats. Energy Department spokesman Joe Davis said the shipments
could begin as early as Saturday.
Federal officials said the material will be converted at the
Savannah River Site into fuel for nuclear reactors. But Hodges has
warned that the conversion program might never be funded and that the
plutonium might be stored permanently in South Carolina.
Hodges sued last month to prevent the shipments, saying the
plutonium poses too many environmental risks. The Democratic governor,
who is up for re-election this fall, had threatened to lie down in the
road if necessary to block the trucks.
Last Thursday, Currie rejected Hodges' arguments that the Energy
Department was violating federal environmental policy, opening the door
for shipments to begin immediately. Hodges has taken his case to a
federal appeals court.