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Nuclear Waste:
Nuclear Waste

Our Position: oppose
Bill Number: H.3545
Sponsor: Witherspoon
Legislative Session: 07/08

Allows the Barnwell nuclear waste site to continue to accept waste from all states until 2023 at a rate of 40,000 cubic feet per year. The site was scheduled to stop receiving waste from  states, other than SC and the two other states in the Atlantic Compact (Conn. and NJ)after 2008.

Status

Defeated in Committee on a vote of 16-0. A great victory.

 

 

http://www.scstatehouse.net/sess117_2007-2008/bills/3545.htm

Action Needed

 

More information

TO AMEND SECTION 48-46-40, AS AMENDED, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, RELATING TO VOLUME LIMITATIONS ON THE DISPOSAL OF LOW-LEVEL RADIOACTIVE WASTE, SO AS TO ESTABLISH A TOTAL VOLUME LIMIT OF FORTY THOUSAND CUBIC FEET INCLUDING NONREGIONAL WASTE FOR FISCAL YEAR 2008 THROUGH FISCAL YEAR 2023; AND TO AMEND SECTION 48-46-50, RELATING TO VOTING BY SOUTH CAROLINA COMMISSIONERS OR ALTERNATE COMMISSIONERS TO THE ATLANTIC COMPACT COMMISSION, SO AS TO DIRECT THE COMMISSIONERS AND ALTERNATE COMMISSIONERS TO VOTE IN A MANNER TO AUTHORIZE THE IMPORTATION OF NONREGIONAL WASTE SO LONG AS IMPORTATION WOULD NOT CAUSE THE FACILITY TO EXCEED A TOTAL VOLUME LIMIT OF FORTY THOUSAND CUBIC FEET FOR FISCAL YEAR 2008 THROUGH FISCAL YEAR 2023.

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:

SECTION    1.    Section 48-46-40(A)(6)(a) of the 1976 Code, as added by Act 357 of 2000, is amended to read:

"(a)    To the extent authorized by the compact commission, the board on behalf of the State of South Carolina may enter into agreements with any person in the United States or its territories or any interstate compact, state, U.S. United States territory, or U.S. United States Department of Defense military installation abroad for the importation of waste into the region for purposes of disposal at a regional disposal facility within South Carolina. No waste from outside the Atlantic Compact region may be disposed at a regional disposal facility within South Carolina, except to the extent that the board is authorized by the compact commission to enter into agreements for importation of waste.

The board shall authorize the importation of nonregional waste into the region for purposes of disposal at the regional disposal facility in South Carolina so long as nonregional waste would not result in the facility accepting more than the following total volumes of all waste:

( i)        160,000 cubic feet in fiscal year 2001;

( ii)        80,000 cubic feet in fiscal year 2002;

( iii)        70,000 cubic feet in fiscal year 2003;

( iv)        60,000 cubic feet in fiscal year 2004;

( v)        50,000 cubic feet in fiscal year 2005;

( vi)        45,000 cubic feet in fiscal year 2006;

( vii)    40,000 cubic feet in fiscal year 2007;

(viii)    35,000 40,000 cubic feet in fiscal year 2008 through fiscal year 2023.

After fiscal year 2008 2023, the board shall not authorize the importation of nonregional waste for purposes of disposal."

SECTION    2.    Section 48-46-50(D) of the 1976 Code, as added by Act 357 of 2000, is amended to read:

"(D)    South Carolina's commissioners or alternate commissioners to the compact commission shall cast any applicable votes on the compact commission in a manner that authorizes the importation of waste into the region for purposes of disposal at a regional disposal facility in South Carolina so long as importation would not result in the facility accepting more than the following total volumes of all waste:

(1)    160,000 cubic feet in fiscal year 2001;

(2)    80,000 cubic feet in fiscal year 2002;

(3)    70,000 cubic feet in fiscal year 2003;

(4)    60,000 cubic feet in fiscal year 2004;

(5)    50,000 cubic feet in fiscal year 2005;

(6)    45,000 cubic feet in fiscal year 2006;

(7)    40,000 cubic feet in fiscal year 2007;

(8)    35,000 40,000 cubic feet in fiscal year 2008 through fiscal year 2023.

South Carolina's commissioners or alternate commissioners shall not vote to approve the importation of waste into the region for purposes of disposal in any fiscal year after 2008 2023."

SECTION    3.    This act takes effect upon approval by the Governor.

Contact

 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

Background

ATLANTIC COMPACT & SC'S NUCLEAR WASTE BURDEN

What's at Stake

  • Over 27 million cubic feet of the nation's radioactive waste - mostly from nuclear power plants is now buried at Barnwell, which has been the "path of least resistance" for over 30 years.  When SC considered closing or limiting access- in 1986, 1992 and in 1995 - politicians relented, kept widespread access open, and killed momentum to open disposal sites in other states.
  • SC entered into an Atlantic Compact with New Jersey and Connecticut in 2000, and agreed to reduce the volume of nuclear waste accepted at Barnwell each year and to close the site to waste from outside the three-state Compact region on July 1, 2008. 
  • The Compact agreement and the 2008 restriction was a compromise agreed to by Chem-Nuclear, waste generators of the Barnewll disposal site, utilities, the conservation community, and elected officials representing Barnwell County.
  • The quantity of waste accepted in 2005 was 43,000 cubic feet, down from 167,000 cubic feet in 1999. The annual projection for 2009, after the compact is in force, is 10,000 cubic feet, with half coming from within SC.
  • In 2006, a new conglomerate, Energy Solutions, acquired Chem-Nuclear, operator of the  Barnwell site, along with its main competitor (Envirocare of Utah).  This new company has previously been a service provider and has no track record as a waste site manager.

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:

  1. This bill is not about "limiting" disposal amounts - it's about violating the Compact and SC once again being the path of least resistance - the projected amount after July 2008 from the compact states is 10,000 cf and the relatively small shortfall projected by the company to continue operations could be covered with several thousand more cf, not 30,000 more -BUT there are other options available and until those are exhausted it's premature to discuss changing the law
  2. This is about whether or not SC wishes to carry the nuclear waste burden for the rest of the country. The compact actually reserves space for SC's future nuclear energy needs.
  3. The DHEC re-licensing referred to in the release was largely dependent upon the fact that in 2008 the volumes stored on site would be drastically reduced.
  4. The $3.65 million shortfall projected by Energy Solutions does not include a number of other available scenarios:  reducing overhead by transferring labor costs to the Extended Care fund (legitimate use of Fund sine site is close to full), mandating that generators send "A" waste to Barnwell rather than to Utah, revising rates...in any event, shortfalls are not projected until 2010 and by that time more accurate projections will be possible
     
  5. Barnwell county agreed to the 2000 law and Rep Hosey cosponsored it and was on the 1999 Task Force which recommended it.  The County has been given a $12 million fund since 2000 to help prepare for scaled back operations - and has received $2 million/year on top of taxes.   Acceptance of these payments would normally convey acceptance of the terms agreed upon in 2000.

Nuclear waste site might not be closed

Legislation would keep landfill open to all states beyond scheduled closing in 2008

By SAMMY FRETWELL
sfretwell@thestate.com

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.

BY THE NUMBERS

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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