South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, two U.S. congressmen and other Republicans blasted President Barack Obama Tuesday for abandoning a plan to send highly radioactive nuclear waste to a disposal site in Nevada — a move they said will leave the Palmetto State holding tons of high-level nuclear waste.
And if Obama doesn't reconsider the decision, they pledged to support a lawsuit to force the atomic waste disposal site in Nevada to open. Although few Democrats were at Tuesday's press conference, Sanford and others said the issue of whether to open Yucca Mountain cuts across party lines.
"This issue is too big to be driven by partisan politics in Washington, D.C.," Sanford said, noting that the administration's proposal will "undo a 25-year solution that's been in place during Republican and Democratic presidential administrations."
The federal government has been working to open the Yucca Mountain project since the early 1980s and Republicans said has spent some $10 billion since that time. The Obama administration has decided to zero out funding next year for the Yucca Mountain site. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, has fought against the project, citing environmental concerns in his state.
If it doesn't open, South Carolina's Savannah River Site nuclear weapons complex could be left with multiple thousands of cans of high-level atomic waste produced mostly during the Cold War. The state’s commercial nuclear plants also would not have a place to send high-level waste generated from power production, which would force them to continue storing it on site.
Sanford, a former congressman, was flanked Tuesday by Republican U.S. Reps. Joe Wilson and Gresham Barrett, a GOP candidate to succeed Sanford as governor. Others attending the news conference at the State House included GOP gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley, R-Lexington, state Rep. Jeff Duncan, a congressional candidate from Laurens; state Sen. Greg Ryberg, R-Aiken; and members of the Aiken County Council.
Attorney General Henry McMaster, also a GOP candidate for governor, did not attend the news conference, but said in a statement he's weighing legal action to challenge Obama's decision.