July 1 was a red-letter day for South Carolina. On that day, the nuclear waste disposal facility in Barnwell County quit accepting waste from across the country.
The Barnwell waste site was the only one of its kind in the nation. It has been accepting low-level radioactive waste from across the nation for nearly four decades, and the battle to end South Carolina's status as the national nuclear waste dump has been long and hard fought.
As of July 1, the first day of the state's fiscal year, use of the facility was restricted to South Carolina, New Jersey and Connecticut. Under a deal struck in 2000, these states comprise the Atlantic Compact that excludes waste shipments from any other state.
The move to reduce out-of-state waste shipments was strongly opposed by Barnwell County officials who objected to the loss of jobs and revenue generated by the facility. But the deal was hailed by environmentalists, who fear that leaks from the facility could affect groundwater in the area, and by those who want to end the state's reputation as the destination for the nation's dangerous waste.
The agreement also reserves space for in-state waste disposal. Approximately 200,000 cubic feet of landfill space will be available for waste from South Carolina's nuclear facilities, including four proposed new nuclear plants.
We welcome the arrival of this new arrangement. The time has come for other states to step up and find new places to bury their low-level nuclear waste.
South Carolina has been taken for granted for too long.