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Posted on Thu, Apr. 11, 2002 story:PUB_DESC
Colorado senator blames Hodges for uncertainty on Rocky Flats (12:19 PM)
DENVER (AP) Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., is accusing South Carolina Gov. Jim Hodges of political gamesmanship and endangering national security by holding up shipments of plutonium from Rocky Flats.

Allard said in a congressional hearing Wednesday that Hodges' opposition to shipping the plutonium to a South Carolina processing site threatens to derail plans to clean up the former nuclear weapons plant by 2006.

"As a result of his dangerous gamesmanship, our national security and our nation's environmental security have been placed at risk," Allard said.

The hearing was on the Energy Department's Environmental Management Program and the National Nuclear Security Administration's Defense Programs.

A spokeswoman for Hodges said Allard should blame the Bush administration for problems with the plutonium shipments, not the governor.

"Senator Allard really needs to be questioning the commitment of the Department of Energy to cleaning up Rocky Flats and their dedication to national security," Cortney Owings said.

The Energy Department plans to ship most of the plutonium to a $3.8 billion plant at the Savannah River Site near Aiken, where it would be converted into fuel for nuclear reactors. But some of the waste is not pure enough to be processed, and the DOE has said it won't be sent to Savannah River.

Allard's spokesman, Sean Conway, said Allard has worked closely with the South Carolina delegation on resolving the issue. "He has nothing but praise for them," Conway said.

The federal government is spending $7 billion to clean up Rocky Flats, northwest of Denver, and turn it into a wildlife refuge. To meet the 2006 deadline, the Energy Department needs to begin shipping plutonium soon, although department officials won't give an exact date.

Conway said Allard met with workers at Rocky Flats last week and assured them he would do what he can to keep the plan on track to ensure their work hasn't been in vain.

On Wednesday, Allard said Hodges has been negotiating in bad faith, constantly increasing his demands.

But Hodges has said the Energy Department hasn't met the criteria he has laid out: a clear path out of the state for the waste; a timeline for creation of a facility to process the waste; and a commitment from the administration and Congress to give the project the money it needs.

Hodges sent a letter to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham on Wednesday, complaining the administration won't make legally enforceable commitments. A DOE spokesman said the department did offer such a commitment on Wednesday, but the only response it got was the letter.

Rocky Flats made plutonium triggers for nuclear weapons for 40 years. It closed in 1989 after the end of the Cold War and after a raid by federal agents prompted by chronic safety problems.

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