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Posted on Wed, May. 08, 2002 story:PUB_DESC
Agency condemns Hodges' plutonium ads

Staff Writer

The U.S. Department of Energy called Tuesday for Gov. Jim Hodges to pull a television advertisement critical of the agency's plan to ship plutonium from Colorado to South Carolina.

A DOE official said making national security a political issue goes against U.S. tradition.

Democrat Hodges began running the advertisement over the weekend.

"It is irresponsible for Governor Hodges to use the plutonium disposition program in political television advertisements for his re-election campaign," Energy Department spokesman Joe Davis said in a statement. "We hope that other responsible leaders in South Carolina would disassociate themselves with this unprecedented move by the governor."

Kevin Geddings, a political adviser to Hodges' re-election campaign, designed the $200,000 advertising effort for airing on statewide television.

Geddings said Hodges asked him to develop the ad, which is being paid for through campaign funds.

Hodges' office said the governor would not stop the advertisements unless the DOE meets his demands on plutonium storage and processing.

The governor wants legally binding assurances from the federal government that it won't leave the toxic, bomb-making material in South Carolina forever. Plutonium shipments from Rocky Flats, Colo., to the Savannah River Site are scheduled to begin this month.

DOE officials say storing and processing plutonium at SRS is vital to national security. International arms agreements with Russia call for turning 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium into fuel for nuclear power plants, thus rendering the material useless for atomic weapons.

Hodges' said last week that it doesn't matter if the plutonium is in Colorado or South Carolina because plants to process the material into fuel won't be built for years.

"This is not a national security issue," Hodges' spokeswoman Cortney Owings said.

"The DOE needs to keep its word: Sign a legally enforceable agreement that protects South Carolina from becoming the nation's plutonium dumping ground and the governor will stop running the ads," Owings said.

The ad starts with images of the U.S. Department of Energy headquarters in Washington, then shows Hodges with South Carolina law enforcement officers and pictures of a blockade drill near the border. Hodges has threatened to block plutonium shipments with state troopers.

"Governor Hodges is fighting to keep plutonium out of South Carolina, even if it means a blockade," the advertisement says. "Stand with Gov. Hodges: Call the Department of Energy and tell them you support our governor. Tell Washington no plutonium dumping in South Carolina."

Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., even got into the action Tuesday and asked Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham to delay the shipments for at least a month.

Thurmond has introduced legislation along with Rep. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to end the dispute between Hodges and DOE.

Thurmond said a delay would allow time for Congress to consider the new legislation, which would require DOE to establish a schedule for the construction and operation of a site to convert the plutonium into reactor fuel.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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