Whenever the need to dispose of nuclear waste arises, somehow it seems South Carolina is involved.
That is the case with EnergySolutions, a company that disposes of radioactive nuclear waste from other countries. The company wants to ship 20,000 tons of material from overseas through ports in Charleston and New Orleans to Tennessee, where it would be processed for burial in Utah, where the company is based.
Licenses have previously been granted to import radioactive items from France and the Czech Republic. But critics say that a shipment of 20,000 tons of radioactive waste would be unprecedented.
EnergySolutions has operated a nuclear waste landfill site in Barnwell County since 1971. But that landfill will close to all but three states next year under an agreement approved by the General Assembly earlier this year.
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The company has not specified exactly where the waste shipment would come from, and some fear that parts of the shipment could exceed federal radiation limits. If so, it would have to be shipped back to the point of origin.
None of this makes sense, except perhaps for those who would profit from the enterprise. The United States has enough radioactive waste already with few options for disposing of it. And, while EnergySolutions has a good record of handling waste safely, a shipment this large would raise security concerns.
It is no surprise the company chose to approach South Carolina as a destination for the shipment. In addition to its excellent port facilities, the state has been the willing recipient of much of the nation's nuclear waste for decades.
With the eventual closing of the Barnwell site, the state finally would significantly wind down its acceptance of nuclear waste and, it is hoped, divest itself of the reputation as the nation's nuclear dumping ground. We hope state officials will oppose any efforts to bring 20,000 tons of radioactive waste to Charleston.
State should resist effort to ship tons of nuclear waste through Port of Charleston.