South Carolina lawmakers to Trump: Save nuclear fuel project

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster speaks during a roundtable discussion on economic development and the cyber industry at SRP Park in North Augusta, S.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018. (Michael Holahan/The Augusta Chronicle via AP) –The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and the state’s congressional delegation urged President Donald Trump on Thursday to reconsider his administration’s plan to shut down a half-built nuclear fuel facility in their state.

A federal appeals court last week allowed the Energy Department to go forward with plans to close the multibillion-dollar facility at the Savannah River Site near Aiken.

Closing the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility could cost hundreds of jobs and waste more than $7.6 billion already spent. The project is intended to reprocess weapons-grade plutonium into fuel for commercial reactors. But it is billions of dollars over budget and decades away from completion.

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A spokesman for the Republican governor said after the meeting that McMaster appreciates Trump’s time and attention “and his commitment to resolve this matter in a manner favorable to South Carolina.”

McMaster “advocated on behalf of South Carolina and brought to light an important issue that our people are facing, and he made it clear that he will not allow our state to become a dumping ground for the world’s nuclear waste,” said spokesman Brian Symmes.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a close Trump ally, said before the White House meeting that shuttering the so-called MOX project was a “stupid decision.”

“Who in the world gets a program halfway built and says, ‘Ah, let’s start over and do something else?'” Graham asked. “Somebody should be fired.”

South Carolina’s other senator, Republican Tim Scott, called the meeting productive and said he was hopeful that Trump and Energy Secretary Rick Perry were listening to the concerns expressed by state officials.

“We wanted to make sure that we make very clear that keeping weapons-grade plutonium in the Palmetto State is a non-starter,” Scott said in a statement. “The bottom line is, we need to figure out how to make this energy either commercially viable or get it out of our state.”

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Associated Press writer Meg Kinnard in Columbia, S.C., contributed to this story.

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This story has been corrected to show that $7.6 billion, not $17 billion, has already been spent on the project.

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