It’s not been a usual sight lately to see Governor Mark Sanford at a press conference, surrounded by lawmakers. Tuesday morning at the Statehouse, the governor gathered South Carolina politicians serving in Congress to county council to speak out against President Obama’s decision to close Nevada’s Yucca Mountains to national nuclear waste storage. They are concerned that will mean more waste at the Savannah River Site for a longer period or even indefinitely. The president’s move also calls into question what would happen to the billions of dollars that states have given to a national fund for the handling of spent nuclear fuel, funds paid by electric customers.
In a letter to congressional lawmakers, Sanford says a move to shut down Yucca Mountain will have “dangerous consequences” in South Carolina. Aiken Senator Greg Ryberg says he will be introducing legislation tomorrow to protect the state–and have access to the money the state normally pays into the Yucca Mountain project.
“In the legislation, we’d put it into a holding account to save it to be used for Yucca or some other repository. We’ve got to plan for our own future. Obviously they don’t care about our future and the interesting thing to me is that we have 100 U.S. Senators and 435 Congressmen. Nevada’s got two. Where are the other 98?” Ryberg says.
Since 1983, the state’s electric ratepayers have given more than $1.2 billion to a fund to sustain a national waste site. The Nevada site was set up by Congress in 2002 as the national repository to be made the safest place to store such waste.
Republican leaders call the president’s move political, to appease Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. Congressman Joe Wilson says he addressed the Obama administration’s potential move almost a year ago.
(Congressman Wilson re: Yucca Mountain closure MP3 2:17)
Congressman Joe Wilson, Yucca Mountain MP3 2:17
Wilson credits Aiken County Council with taking up the battle. Aiken County is home to most of the Savannah River Site, which the governor says now stores 4,000 metric tons of nuclear waste.
(Ashley Byrd interviews Aiken County Councilman Chuck Smith MP3 1:09)
Ashley Byrd interview with Aiken Councilman Chuck Smith MP3 1:09
Councilman Smith and Gov. Mark Sanford have asked for the help of SC Attorney General Henry McMaster. In a statement released today, McMaster says, “Until we determine a course of action, I urge the members of our federal delegation to push for congressional action reversing President Obama’s Yucca decision.”