BARNWELL – Two county governments and a regional economic development group have filed suit against South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, seeking to temporarily halt disbursement of $600 million in Department of Energy plutonium settlement funds pending court review.
The suit was filed in the Barnwell County Court of Common Pleas on Monday by Allendale and Barnwell counties and the Southern Carolina Alliance. The Alliance is an economic development group that represents seven counties, including Allendale and Barnwell, where most of DOE’s Savannah River Site (SRS) is located.
The suit asks that the attorney general be enjoined from commencing the disbursement of economic and impact assistance funds paid by DOE in connection with its failure to build the Mixed Oxide (MOX) facility and remove plutonium stored at SRS from the state.
The suit alleges that the plaintiffs, along with Aiken County, are significantly impacted by the storage of nuclear waste adjacent to its property and within its boundaries as well as by the loss of the MOX project. As part of the preparations to open MOX, over 9 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium was transferred to the site and stored at a facility in Barnwell County.
According to the suit, the plaintiffs will suffer “irreparable harm” if the attorney general pays the settlement funds into the state’s general fund before the court declares who the intended beneficiaries are. The suit requests a temporary restraining order directing the attorney general to place all funds in an interest-bearing account until the issues are decided on their merits.
In an accompanying affidavit, Danny Black, Southern Carolina Alliance president and CEO, stated his organization has encountered resistance and negative responses from industry prospects who ultimately chose not to consider the region because of concerns about storage of plutonium and nuclear waste at SRS. He said the loss of these prospects represented a “significant blow” to the region’s economy.