South Carolina Orders Police To Stop Plutonium

Gov. Jim Hodges, June 15, 2002

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) -- South Carolina Gov. Jim Hodges declared an emergency Friday and ordered police to block federal plutonium shipments from entering the state.

The federal Energy Department is scheduled to ship the plutonium from the Rocky Flats weapons plant in Colorado -- which is being closed -- to South Carolina's Savannah River nuclear weapons complex, where it would be used as fuel for a nuclear power plant.

Trucks carrying shipments of the deadly radioactive material could begin arriving at the state line as soon as this weekend.

"As governor, when I believe danger exists to our state, I am empowered to declare an emergency and to take measures to maintain peace and safety in South Carolina," Hodges said.

"For these reasons, I have today issued an executive order that an emergency exists in South Carolina. I order that the transportation of plutonium on South Carolina roads and highways be prohibited."



Federal Judge Orders South Carolina Governor
To Not Block Plutonium Shipments

AIKEN, S.C. (AP) _ A federal judge Tuesday prohibited Gov. Jim Hodges from blocking government shipments of bomb-grade plutonium to South Carolina that could begin as early as this weekend.

``It is a sad day for South Carolina when the governor, who has taken an oath to uphold the Constitution, must be ordered by a court to obey it,'' U.S. District Judge Cameron Currie said.

On Friday, Hodges sent state police to the government's Savannah River Site weapons installation near the Georgia state line to stop any vehicles carrying the radioactive material, which is to be brought in from the closed Rocky Flats weapons plant in Colorado.

The governor said he would abide by the judge's order.

``Against our will, the blockade is over,'' Hodges said. ``I don't apologize for our efforts, our suit or our blockade.''

The Energy Department wants to move about 6 1/2 tons of plutonium to Savannah River as part of the agency's effort to clean up and close Rocky Flats. Energy Department spokesman Joe Davis said the shipments could begin as early as Saturday.

Federal officials said the material will be converted at the Savannah River Site into fuel for nuclear reactors. But Hodges has warned that the conversion program might never be funded and that the plutonium might be stored permanently in South Carolina.

Hodges sued last month to prevent the shipments, saying the plutonium poses too many environmental risks. The Democratic governor, who is up for re-election this fall, had threatened to lie down in the road if necessary to block the trucks.

Last Thursday, Currie rejected Hodges' arguments that the Energy Department was violating federal environmental policy, opening the door for shipments to begin immediately. Hodges has taken his case to a federal appeals court.




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