July 31, 2014

Energy Secretary tours SRS as agency considers shelving experimental nuke program

Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MOX) at Savannah River Site (Image: High Flyer)

Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MOX) at Savannah River Site (Image: High Flyer)

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz will join Gov. Nikki Haley, Sen. Lindsey Graham, and others in a tour of several nuclear facilities Monday that could be affected by budget cuts during this upcoming year.

The Energy Secretary will be making his first official visit to the Savannah River Site in Aiken County since taking the Cabinet post last year. The tour will include a visit to the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MOX) at the site. The MOX project is supposed to eventually convert weapons-grade plutonium into nuclear reactor fuel, but the project is over-budget and years behind schedule.

The White House, acting on concerns by both budget watchdogs and anti-nuclear groups, moved to place the project on cold-standby for a year. The move would halt construction as the Energy Department considers alternative ways to dispose of the plutonium.

South Carolina officials sued, worried about the loss of roughly 1,800 jobs at the site. The lawsuit argued the Energy Department lacked the authority to shift the project’s status without congressional approval. Graham said the lawsuit was dropped in May after Moniz promised construction would continue through the end of the fiscal year in September.

Haley’s spokesman Doug Mayer told the Aiken Standard that the governor looks forward to welcoming Moniz to South Carolina so they can resume the conversations they have had concerning the federal government’s “failure to remove nuclear waste from our state.”

Cleanup continues after Spartanburg train derailment

Crews are now in the process of cleaning up after a train containing highly flammable ethanol derailed near Spartanburg early Friday morning.

Spartanburg Fire Department officials say the 90-car CSX train had left Pelzer and was on its way to Decatur, Illinois when three of its cars left the track around 1:30 a.m. near downtown Spartanburg between W. Main Street and Henry Street. Hazmat crews have closed off the area, but say none of the cars are leaking at this time.

No one was injured and no evacuations have been ordered at this time. Fire Chief Marion Blackwell said the situation could have been much more serious.

“We could have had a spill, a release of the product from the container, we could have had a fire,” he told reporters on the scene. “A lot of things could have went wrong and didn’t. We’re very fortunate.”

CSX officials said they are investigating the cause of the accident.

The hazmat crews are keeping an eye on the overturned cars’ pressure valves. CSX is sending a second train to haul off the remaining undamaged cars.

Ed Jenson contributed to this report

PEBA looks to its past to find new director

The South Carolina agency that manages public workers’ health and retirement benefits has appointed a familiar face to be its new leader.

The Public Employee Benefits Authority (PEBA) board voted 10-0 Thursday to name Peggy Boykin as its new director. Boykin had led South Carolina Retirement Systems, PEBA’s predecessor agency, under Gov. Mark Sanford. She was replaced when Gov. Nikki Haley assumed office in 2011.

PEBA was created by the state legislature as part of a 2012 pension reform law. It is responsible for managing the health insurance and retirement plans for over a half-million current and former state employees.

Boykin had been a board member since the agency’s inception. She is a certified public accountant who has been an employee at the College of Charleston.

She recused herself from the vote. Boykin will start her new job on Monday.

“Although we will miss her as a colleague on the Board, we know that she will be more valuable in this position,” PEBA Board chairman Art Bjontegard said in a statement.”PEBA is still a relatively new agency, but one that is important directly and indirectly to everyone in South Carolina, with a very significant economic impact on our state.”

Governor names new Fairfield County sheriff

Interim Sheriff Dunstan Padgett (Image: Fairfield County)

Interim Sheriff Dunstan Padgett (Image: Fairfield County)

Governor Nikki Haley has appointed an interim sheriff in Fairfield County, one day after longtime sheriff Herman Young announced his resignation due to health reasons.

Haley announced her decision Wednesday, naming Capt. Dunstan Padgett, 58, to the post. He was sworn into office later that day. Padgett’s term will last until voters choose a permanent sheriff in a future special election.

Padgett is a 26-year veteran of the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office, working in narcotics and in the patrol division. He also served 27 years in the South Carolina National Guard. While in the guard, he was deployed to Kosovo in 2004 and in Afghanistan in 2007 and 2008.

In a statement Tuesday, Young said he was leaving after 22 years on the job for health reasons. He later told WIS he had been having heart troubles in recent years.

Padgett also plans to run for the office again in the special election, according to The State newspaper.


Converse College basketball coach resigns after shoplifting arrest

Former Converse College Head Basketball Coach Kaye Waldrep (Image: Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office)

Former Converse College Head Basketball Coach Kaye Waldrep (Image: Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office)

The head women’s basketball coach at Converse College in Spartanburg has resigned after being charged with shoplifting on Tuesday.

A Converse spokeswoman said in an email Wednesday that the college had accepted the resignation of head basketball coach Kaye Waldrep, effective immediately. The spokeswoman said the college was unable to make any further comment on a personnel matter.

According to WSPA, the 35-year-old Waldrep was seen trying to hide and steal over $500 worth of merchandise from a Kohl’s Department store.

The Spartanburg County Sheriff’s office incident report said Waldrep and 38-year-old Ricky Dean Ponder were seen selecting perfume and tennis shoes and trying to hide the items in Waldrep’s purse before attempting to leave without paying. The pair were detained by security guards until deputies arrived.

The police report says Waldrep and Ponder admitted to the deputies that they attempted to steal the items and were arrested and issued tickets for first-offense shoplifting under $2,000.

Waldrep was hired by the college in 2012 after she spent four seasons as the assistant basketball coach for the College of Charleston women’s team. Waldrep began her coaching career in 2001 at her alma mater, Newberry College.

Converse College has removed Waldrep’s profile from the school’s athletics page.

Patrick Ingraham contributed to this report