South Carolina considers blocking roads to plutonium trucks

| 6/17/2002

Gov. Jim Hodges may sign an executive order as early as Friday authorizing state troopers to shut down roads leading to a South Carolina nuclear site. Gov. Hodges is trying to buy time while he appeals a court decision to allow plutonium-bearing trucks into the state.

The governor is considering the tactic to stop shipments of weapons-grade plutonium from Colorado's Rocky Flats facility to a Savannah River site. The shipments are scheduled to begin as soon as this weekend. U.S. District Judge Cameron Currie Thursday denied the governor's request to delay shipments. Hodges is appealing Thursday's decision to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia.

Earlier in the standoff, Hodges warned he would even lie down in the road if necessary to stop the plutonium shipments. Judge Currie stopped short of saying the governor's threats were unconstitutional, but did issue an order Thursday saying Hodges would have to notify the court if he planned to physically block the shipments.

Hodges sued to stop the shipments in May, fearing the government would fail to come up with the money to convert the plutonium into nuclear reactor fuel, leaving the nuclear material in South Carolina indefinitely. He warned that transporting the plutonium from Colorado is too risky, and storing it at the site would make the state a terrorist target.