Monday, July 7, 2008

Limiting S.C. nuclear-waste role

Limiting S.C. nuclear-waste role

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Tuesday marked the end of South Carolina's role as the low-level radioactive waste disposal site for much of the nation. Henceforth, the Barnwell waste site will operate at a sharply reduced level, accepting waste only from three states, including South Carolina.

The disposal site, operated by Chem-Nuclear, also will take waste from New Jersey and Connecticut under a multi-state agreement that provides the only mechanism for limiting the volume of waste accepted at the site, short of closing it down.

At the Barnwell site, South Carolina has provided the solution to many of the nation's nuclear waste disposal problems for most of its 38-year existence. South Carolina had planned to turn over that duty to North Carolina several years ago, under a long-standing pact, but officials there ultimately declined the responsibility.

The legislative creation of the new multi-state compact means that most of the states that have long dispatched their nuclear waste to South Carolina finally will have to come up with their own solutions. South Carolina was once regarded as a location where unwanted waste could easily be dumped. The previous closure of the Pinewood hazardous waste landfill and the new limits to the Barnwell site will diminish lingering associations with that dubious role.

There is some consternation in Barnwell County about the loss of revenue that will be a result of the diminished waste stream. But the agreement to close the landfill to most of the nation came eight years ago, after extended legislative negotiations. The Legislature made the decision to terminate the state's role as the nation's nuclear waste disposal site, while giving an extended advance notice so that all those affected could plan accordingly.

Closing the Barnwell site to most of the nation will retain most of its remaining capacity for South Carolina. Assuming safe management of the landfill can be assured, Barnwell will provide a long-term asset for hospitals and other waste generators in the state.

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