A federal judge has tossed out another element of South Carolina’s lawsuit against the Energy Department over plutonium that remains at the Savannah River Site past a 2016 deadline.
The Aiken Standard reports District Judge Michelle Childs on Tuesday countered the state’s argument that the federal government violated the Constitution when it did not hold up its end of a 14-year-old agreement to reprocess the plutonium into reactor fuel — known as the Mixed Oxide Fuel (or MOX) project. The judge has not yet ruled on the merits of the overall case, but said a contract breach is not a constitutional issue. Childs previously dismissed the state’s assertion that it’s entitled to $100 million per year in fines for the missed deadlines.
But she also denied the federal government’s motion to dismiss the state’s claims the Energy Department failed to dispose of 1 metric ton of plutonium per year, which the agreement also called for.
She has ordered the two sides to reach a settlement by July 31.
The lawsuit’s underpinning was the former Obama administration’s move towards shuttering the MOX facility’s construction after delays caused it to fall years behind schedule and billions over budget. South Carolina political leaders, concerned about the facility’s roughly 1,300 jobs, are hoping the lawsuit can force the federal government to finish the project’s construction and thus dispose of the plutonium.
However, new Energy Secretary Rick Perry has not yet publicly commented on whether his agency will change its position in the Trump administration.