South Carolina Chapter
Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee:
|Witherspoon, William D. , Chm.||Toole, McLain R. "Mac" , 1st V.C.||Hiott, David R. , 2nd V.C.|
|Brady, Joan B. , Secy.||Agnew, Paul L.||Brown, Robert L.|
|Duncan, Jeffrey D. "Jeff"||Frye, Marion B.||Funderburk, Laurie Slade|
|Hardwick, Nelson L.||Hodges, Kenneth F.||Knight, Patsy G.|
|Loftis, Dwight A.||Lowe, Phillip D.||Mitchell, Harold , Jr.|
|Pitts, Michael A.||Umphlett, C. David , Jr.||Vick, Ted Martin
ATLANTIC COMPACT & SC'S NUCLEAR WASTE BURDEN
What's at Stake
Myth or Fact?
LOW LEVEL WASTE IS JUST MEDICAL GLOVES. Actually "low level" is just the waste that is not legally classified as "high level" and includes much highly radioactive and long lived waste. The Energy Solutions site in Utah, located in the dry desert, accepts only the lowest level "A" waste, while Barnwell accepts the more radioactive "B and C" waste, including nuclear reactor filters and decommissioned reactor components.
WASTE AT THE FACILITY IS SAFELY SEALED. Actually containers of nuclear waste are place in unlined , open pits which often collect rain water before these pits are eventually filled. There is already a documented underground plume of radioactive tritium flowing over 1/2 mile towards Mary's Branch Creek, a tributary of the Savannah River. Thousands of cubic yards of contaminated soil have been excavated from an adjacent church property.
THE FACILITY CAN'T OPERATE PROPERLY IF THE WASTE IS REDUCED. Actually several scenarios exist for the company to continue scaled back operations after 2008. The site now employees roughly 50 full time employees.
ENERGY SOLUTIONS WILL LOSE MONEY. Actually the Compact guarantees that the company will be reimbursed for reasonable costs plus a guaranteed 29% profit.
BARNWELL COUNTY IS NOT BEING TREATED FAIRLY. Actually the Compact established the Barnwell Economic Development Fund and allocated $12 million to fund projects and infrastructure there. To date, $10.5 million has been funded as compensation to Barnwell County. It's time for SC to stick to its guns and uphold the already agreed upon terms of the Compact.
A couple of points to remember:
South Carolina's ongoing dispute over nuclear waste disposal in Barnwell County resurfaced Thursday with a bill to keep the landfill open to the nation beyond next year's scheduled closure.
The measure, introduced by Rep. Billy Witherspoon, would allow utilities and other companies to continue sending low-level atomic waste to the landfill near Snelling.
County officials, utilities and an out-of-state nuclear services company are pushing to keep the landfill open to the nation, rather than limit access to just South Carolina, Connecticut and New Jersey after July 1, 2008.
Witherspoon, R-Horry, said the landfill could operate $3 million to $4 million in the red annually if only three states are sending waste.
County representatives said they need the money the site produces. Witherspoon's bill limits the volume of waste allowed at the landfill to current levels.
The landfill brings in about $2 million a year for Barnwell County and about $10 million a year for South Carolina schools, according to the State Budget and Control Board.
"If we do not sustain the facility's economic viability, Barnwell County and Barnwell schools will be thrown into an economic crisis," said Rep. Lonnie Hosey, D-Barnwell. "The facility is safe. We need it for jobs and economic growth, and it ought to be allowed to continue current operations."
Duke Energy and Progress Energy, North Carolina-based companies that operate nuclear reactors, said Thursday they back Witherspoon's bill.
Supporters of closing the 235-acre landfill said South Carolina must stop accepting the nation's nuclear trash.
"Basically, we're saying that if there's money involved, there is nothing we won't do," said Sen. Phil Leventis, D-Sumter. "It really comes down to how much respect you have for yourself and your state."
Ann Timberlake, director of the Conservation Voters of South Carolina, said her organization will fight to close the landfill as agreed upon in 2000. Money for schools generated by the landfill is a pittance compared to the state's overall school budget, she and Leventis said.
Gov. Mark Sanford's office said Thursday "nobody has presented us with a compelling reason" to keep the landfill open beyond 2008.
Landfill backers say it has been run safely. State regulators consistently have given the Barnwell County dump permits after environmental review. The landfill, which places casks of nuclear waste in unlined trenches, once leaked radioactive tritium onto nearby property.
In 2000, then-Gov. Jim Hodges persuaded the Legislature to begin scaling back the amount of waste accepted from nuclear power plants and other industrial sites around the country.
The law also scheduled the landfill to close next year to all but three states.
That law followed past attempts to close the landfill, which have produced heated debates over the years. Each time the state has scheduled a closure date, the Legislature has abandoned the plan after heavy lobbying by Chem-Nuclear, the Barnwell site's operator.
The landfill today is operated by Energy Solutions Inc., a Utah corporation that bought Chem-Nuclear and its parent company in 2006.
State records show Energy Solutions, under the name Chem-Nuclear, has hired 10 lobbyists, including former governor's office aides Warren Tompkins and Will McCain and former state Rep. Mark Kelley of Myrtle Beach.
In the past six months, Energy Solutions also bought television ads and hired Tim Dangerfield, a former top-ranking S.C. Commerce Department official.
Company executives say their efforts are part of a push to invest in the nuclear industry in South Carolina, ranging from the landfill to nuclear fuel reprocessing.
Steve Creamer, Energy Solutions' president, said the landfill won't earn the company huge profits if it stays open. Creamer, who founded Energy Solutions in 2005, said the landfill's revenues make up less than 5 percent of the revenues from his company's Duratek nuclear services division.
Creamer said the landfill is vital to the country's nuclear power plants as a disposal site. Without Barnwell, low-level nuclear waste would be stored at power plants across the country, he said.
"I'm doing it for my industry. If you don't have these facilities, that's when bad things happen in the environment."
Low-level waste includes lightly contaminated hospital gowns and gloves as well as nuclear power plant reactor parts and filter resins.
Much of the material coming to Barnwell County is the more radioactive kind, Energy Solutions officials said. An Energy Solutions landfill east of Salt Lake City takes the most lightly contaminated low-level waste.
The landfill issue was important enough that the company considered having a South Carolina legislator speak at a customer conference in Utah last month. The company later pulled the item from the agenda.
On Tuesday, Energy Solutions took two members of a state nuclear advisory council on a tour of the Barnwell dump. It also has met with the full council, which advises Sanford on nuclear policy.
Rep. Robert Brown, D-Charleston, and Rep. Bakari Sellers, D-Bamberg, said they heard early in the legislative session from lobbyists who want to keep the landfill open.
"I know it's all about the dollar bill," Brown said.
Sellers said he is torn by the company's arguments.
"We are in an economically depressed area, and I'm looking at the economic benefits this brings. I'm trying to balance that with the environmental implications and the overall character of our state."
Fretwell can be reached at (803) 771-8537.
36: years the Barnwell County nuclear waste landfill has been open
15: years it would remain open past the 2008 scheduled closing date under a bill introduced Thursday
28 million: number of cubic feet of radioactive garbage accepted since the landfill opened
2: number of commercial low-level nuclear waste landfills, including Barnwell, open to every state
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