McMaster: Spending $ 525 million deal on plutonium for affected communities

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South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster wants to invest the bulk of a $ 525 million federal settlement to store plutonium at a former nuclear weapons plant in counties surrounding the plant.

The governor released his recommendations for the 2020 settlement money on Friday. Federal officials had promised a plant at the Savannah River site near Aiken that would turn plutonium from unnecessary nuclear weapons into nuclear reactor fuel, but left approximately 21,000 pounds (9500 kilograms) of highly radioactive material in storage in South Carolina.

McMaster’s plan would allocate $ 317.5 million to projects in Aiken County and $ 121 million and $ 13 million to neighboring Barnwell and Allendale counties, respectively. The communities surrounding the nuclear power plant should be the recipients of the funds, McMaster wrote in a letter to state lawmakers.

“These settlement funds provide us with a once in a lifetime opportunity,” McMaster wrote. “By making large, bold and transformative investments in education, infrastructure, workforce and economic development, we can literally change the future of the region and the state.

The money is currently in the hands of the state legislature, which will ultimately decide how to spend the money.

The governor’s proposal would create several industrial parks, modernize water and sewer systems, and help develop and expand workforce training programs in the three counties, among other suggestions. McMaster recommended several other infrastructure projects in Aiken, including a project to reduce congestion on a busy road and an effort to expand broadband.

McMaster also wants $ 73.5 million put into a reserve fund for future use.

South Carolina fought for a long time with the federal government over plutonium, which was sent to the state for a facility to produce nuclear fuel, until federal authorities ended the program.

The federal government promised in 2002 to get rid of all plutonium by 2017 and the settlement was negotiated after the promise was broken. The 2020 regulations also require the United States to remove all plutonium by the end of 2036 or face additional penalties that could total more than $ 1 billion.

The Savannah River site once had nearly 26,000 workers in the early 1990s, as it shifted from building nuclear weapons to finding ways to clean up and store radioactive byproducts from weapons and power plants. nuclear. Today, around 11,000 people work on the site.

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