Energy Solutions, the landfill operator that runs the Barnwell Waste site near the Savannah River, wants to reopen the dump to customers around the nation. Not content to merely lobby state legislators, the Utah corporation now has launched a statewide media and internet blitz to persuade doubters that nuclear waste is good for the state.
We hope the many opponents of this bad idea will remain steadfast in opposing any efforts to reopen the site.
Energy Solutions, which serves customers around the nation, hopes to reopen the dump so that it can compete nationally with its chief rival, Waste Control Specialists. That company now operates the only low-level landfill, located in west Texas, that is licensed to take all classes of low-level waste from all states.
Beginning in early March, Energy Solutions began running TV ads across South Carolina touting the economic benefits of once again accepting low-level waste – including more highly radioactive Class C waste – from waste facilities in states outside the current three-state compact now served by Barnwell. The company also has launched a website, “truthaboutbarnwell.com,” and hired a team of legislative lobbyists to promote the plan.
Under a state law passed in 2000 and fully implemented in 2008, the Barnwell dump was closed to all but three states – Connecticut, New Jersey and South Carolina – which formed what is known as the Atlantic Compact. Under that agreement, the cost of operating the landfill is split among the power reactors in the three states.
Energy Solutions would like to bring in more more Class C and other more highly radioactive waste to Barnwell County. That type of waste can produce more revenue because it costs more to bury. In exchange, waste with lower levels of radioactivity would go to the company’s landfill in Clive, Utah.
It’s not hard to figure out that this is a losing proposition for South Carolina. More highly radioactive waste would be shipped to the state; more low-level waste would be sent to Utah; and Energy Solutions would make more money.
Even now, the Barnwell landfill is leaking radioactive tritium into groundwater that drains into a tributary of the Savannah River. That river is a source of drinking water for communities in Beaufort and Jasper counties, including Hilton Head Island. Savannah, Ga., also gets drinking water from the river.
Critics of the plan say they have seen nothing to indicate opening the site would create a significant number of jobs or do much to boost the economy in Barnwell County. The site now employs fewer than 100 people.
Last week, Gov. Nikki Haley announced that she opposes the plan to reopen the site to national waste, saying she wants to ensure the state isn’t spoiled for future generations: “I’m not willing to go and take in nuclear waste our kids and grandkids might have to deal with,” she said during a recent news conference to address the issue.
She said that despite her desire to create jobs in South Carolina, some jobs just aren’t worth it. “We don’t sell our soul for jobs and money,” she said.
So far, no bill has been filed in the Legislature to reopen the dump. We hope that continues to be the case.
Gov. Nikki Haley has joined critics in opposing a plan to reopen the low-level nuclear waste site in Barnwell County to all states.