South Carolina governor ordered to clear way for plutonium

| 6/20/2002

A federal judge Tuesday prohibited Gov. Jim Hodges from blocking government shipments of weapons-grade plutonium bound by truck for South Carolina. The governor has taken his case to a federal appeals court.

"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.

Last Friday, the governor ordered state troopers to stop any vehicles carrying radioactive material from the closed Rocky Flats weapons plant in Colorado to the government's Savannah River Site weapons installation. The shipments are scheduled to begin as soon as this weekend.

Gov. Hodges said he would abide by the judge's order. "Against our will, the blockade is over," the governor said. "I don't apologize for our efforts, our suit or our blockade."

In May, Hodges sued to prevent the shipments, fearing the government would fail to come up with the money to convert the 6 tons of 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.

Earlier in the standoff, the governor warned he would even lie down in the road if necessary to stop the plutonium shipments.