Columbia, S.C. - Today, Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette joined Attorney General Alan Wilson at the South Carolina State House to announce a historic settlement between the Trump Administration and the State of South Carolina on the removal of 9.5 metric tons of plutonium from the state. This settlement is the conclusion of years of litigation, which began during the Obama Administration and a directive from Congress from nearly two decades ago.
Through this unique settlement, the American taxpayers will save $1.5 billion and the people of South Carolina will receive a financially backed commitment from the Administration to remove the material from the state, with a payment of $600 million up front. This settlement agreement is a model for how states and the Federal government can work together to produce mutually beneficial outcomes to protect the interests of the states and promote national security.
“The Trump Administration is committed to tackling our nation’s toughest challenges where previous Administrations have failed, including the removal and disposal of Cold War era plutonium from the State of South Carolina,” said Secretary Brouillette. “Today’s announcement is a promise to the people of South Carolina that plutonium will be removed safely from this state, while saving the American taxpayers over $1 billion. I thank Attorney General Wilson, Governor McMaster, and other South Carolina leaders who have been strong partners with DOE to get us to this day. This historic agreement could not have been possible without the leadership and support of President Trump and Attorney General Barr. This is a good day for South Carolina.”
- After the Cold War and as part of its national security mission, DOE was challenged with finding a safe, secure method to dispose of large amounts of weapons-grade nuclear material, including weapons grade plutonium. DOE determined that the best option would be to irradiate the material at a mixed oxide (MOX) fuel fabrication facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.
- As part of the 2002 legislation on the MOX facility, Congress required that in the event the MOX facility failed to achieve its production goals, DOE would be required to remove the plutonium shipped to South Carolina for processing.
- In addition, the statute provided that if the MOX production was not met and the material was not removed by a certain deadline, then DOE would be required to remit economic and impact assistance payments to South Carolina in the amount of $1 million per day for each day that certain milestones went unmet, up to a maximum of $100 million per year.
- In 2018, former-Secretary Perry exercised his right under the statute to terminate the construction of the MOX facility because the inherited project was approximately $13 billion over budget and 32 years behind schedule.
- Currently, 9.5 metric tons of plutonium brought into the state for the MOX facility remain in South Carolina. The next statutory deadline for removal is January 1, 2022, after which DOE would be required to pay $1 million a day, up to a maximum $100 million a year until all the plutonium is removed.
- DOE is committed to removing the plutonium from South Carolina and will continuously work to find the most effective, efficient, and safest way to do so. DOE is currently pursuing removal through the “Dilute and Dispose” process – a process that is proven safe and effective, but is time intensive, guaranteeing that DOE will miss the January 1, 2022 deadline.
- The current timeline projects the 9.5 metric tons will be completely removed by 2049, which means that without the settlement agreement, DOE would be subject to economic and impact assistance payments of more than $2 billion.
- The settlement reached today will allow South Carolina to realize upfront a lump sum of economic and impact assistance payments ($600 million), but will also allow DOE more time (through 2037) to safely remove the plutonium from the state without the threat of lawsuits.
Details of the Settlement Agreement
- Upfront payment of $600 million to the State of South Carolina.
- South Carolina will waive its right to bring any lawsuit against DOE for the removal of the plutonium, and DOE will be relieved of paying statutorily required payments, until 2037.
- In 2037, DOE will pay a percentage of the accrued statutory payments from the years 2022-2037 based on how much plutonium is left in the state.
- After 2037, DOE will pay a percentage of the statutorily required $100 million a year based on how much plutonium is left in the state.
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