June 2002


Associated Press, June 18, 2002
By Jacob Jordan

[Posted 23/06/2002]

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 taken 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 any 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 don't 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.

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