Filed at 5:36 a.m. ET
NEW ELLENTON, S.C. (AP) -- State troopers got a taste of what
might be in store next month during a mock exercise in which they
practiced blocking a shipment of plutonium from Colorado.
Gov. Jim Hodges, who is locked in a dispute with the Department
of Energy over the shipments, ordered the practice drill Monday for
about three dozen state troopers and transport police officers.
As part of the drill, patrol cars blocked a four-lane road near
the Savannah River Site, a nuclear facility about 10 miles from the
Georgia state line.
Officers declared the exercise a success after managing to
convince the driver of an 18-wheel tractor-trailer -- in reality, a
vehicle borrowed from the state Department of Correction -- to turn
Officials said they didn't know whether it would be that easy
when trucks carrying plutonium and escorted by armed federal
officers make the same attempted entrance. Energy officials have
said shipments could begin by May 15.
``I think they'll turn around,'' Hodges said. But, he added,
``We'll take whatever steps are necessary to keep the plutonium out
The Energy Department plans to reprocess the plutonium into fuel
to be used in commercial nuclear reactors. Hodges worries that the
material might be stored in South Carolina permanently.
``The department is extremely disappointed with Governor Hodges
roadblock exercise,'' according to a prepared statement faxed by the
agency. ``Fortunately other South Carolina leaders are spending
their time today working with the department toward finalizing our
plutonium disposition program.''
A law professor said the state is likely to lose a standoff with
the Energy Department.
The actions of the federal government almost always take priority
unless a court gets involved, said Eldon Wedlock, a constitutional
law professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law.
``The Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution establishes that
the Constitution and the laws of the United States are the supreme
law of the land,'' said Wedlock.
Hodges, a Democrat who is up for re-election this year, has
threatened to lie down in the road if necessary to block the
shipments unless the Energy Department signs an agreement for the
treatment and removal of the radioactive materials.
The governor said state officials will have a good idea of when
the plutonium will leave the Rocky Flats facility in Colorado and
what route it will take.
That will make it a little easier to guess which one of the 69
roads will be used to enter South Carolina, Public Safety Department
spokesman Boykin Rose said. He refused to say Monday whether Georgia
officials are offering any assistance to keep the material out of