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Feds ask S.C. governor to kill
The Department of Energy on Tuesday asked South Carolina Gov. Jim Hodges to pull a TV ad touting his stance against federal shipments of bomb-grade plutonium to his state.
The ad is simply part of an effort by Hodges, a Democrat, to get re-elected in the fall, the feds charged. "We strongly urge Governor Hodges to pull his TV ad immediately out of respect for . . . national security," department spokesman Joe Davis said.
Hodges said through his spokeswoman that he has no intention of killing the ad. Instead, he accused the Energy Department of using the plutonium shipments to bolster the re-election campaign of Sen. Wayne Allard, (R-Colo.)
The plutonium, due to be shipped starting this month, would come from the shut-down federal Rocky Flats bomb factory near Denver. At the Energy Department's Savannah River Site, it would be stored for eventual reprocessing and use in electric power reactors.
Hodges has vowed to use state troopers --- even to lie down in the road if necessary --- to turn back plutonium-hauling trucks unless he is assured that South Carolina won't become the permanent repository for the radioactive material.
He launched the statewide TV ad campaign last week. It consists of a 30-second ad, financed with the governor's campaign war chest, showing Hodges at a practice blockade. It urges residents to "stand with Governor Hodges" and to call Washington to say "no plutonium dumping in South Carolina."
Davis on Tuesday called Hodges' ad campaign "irresponsible" and an affront to national security. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham has said the plutonium must be shipped soon to meet a 2006 deadline for cleaning up and closing down Rocky Flats. Abraham also said he feared Russia might lose interest in its agreement to dispose of several tons of bomb-grade plutonium if the United States does not show progress in getting rid of its own plutonium.
Allard has said Hodges will be to blame if plans to turn Rocky Flats into a wildlife refuge fall through. Allard's press secretary has referred to Hodges as an "Elmer Fudd."
But Hodges said he would not allow South Carolina to be the dumping ground for "nuclear junk" to support the re-election of a Republican senator in Colorado.
"This is not a national security issue," said Cortney Owings, Hodges' press secretary. "There is ample evidence that [the DOE's] motivation behind shipping plutonium from Colorado to South Carolina now is to help Senator Allard's re-election bid."
On Tuesday, Sen. Strom Thurmond joined the fray, asking Abraham to delay the shipments for at least a month.
Thurmond said the delay would allow Congress to consider legislation to resolve the state-federal dispute. He and Rep. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are promoting a measure that would set a schedule for the plutonium reprocessing, with financial penalties for the DOE if deadlines were not met.
Although the Savannah River Site is only a few miles from the Georgia
border, Gov. Roy Barnes has stayed out of the dispute.
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2002 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution