Sanford blasts Obama for Yucca decision

COLUMBIA, SC (WMBF/WCSC) - South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, flanked by other Republican officials, blasted the Obama administration Tuesday morning for abandoning a decades-long plan to send nuclear waste to a Nevada-based dump site. Sanford said Obama's plan would leave South Carolina without a place to dispose of the tons of nuclear waste generated at the Savannah River Site near Aiken.

The state's Attorney General Henry McMaster said he was seeking legal recourse to force the administration to keep the Yucca Mountain site open.

"Following President Obama's announcement, my office immediately began researching what legal avenues and remedies are available to South Carolina. This includes consultation and collaborative discussions with attorneys general in similarly situated states, utility executives, nuclear industry legal experts, former DOE officials, and state and local officials from the Aiken - Savannah River Plant community," he said in a release.

In a Tuesday press conference, Sanford reiterated the bi-partisan nature of the 23-year-long plan to make the Nevada facility the primary permanent storage site for nuclear waste generated in the U.S., saying it would "undo a 25-year solution that's been in place during Republican and Democratic presidential administration."

Sanford said the federal government has spent more than 20 years and $10 billion to open the Yucca Mountain site. The Obama administration, amid a flurry of budget cuts, opted to zero out funding for the site in the next fiscal year. Sen. Harry Reid has fought against the placement of the site, citing concerns for the environment and the people that live in and around Las Vegas.

Reid is the senior Senator from Nevada and the Majority Leader in that body.

If the Yucca Mountain site is scrubbed, it leaves the state of South Carolina and the Savannah River Site in a precarious position when considering long-term disposal of its nuclear waste, much of which was generated when the facility's five nuclear reactors were in operation between the 1950s and 1980s.

State and municipal legislators were on hand during Tuesday's press conference, including state Sen. Greg Ryberg (R-Aiken) and members of the Aiken County Council, who have a greater-than-political interest in the administration's decision.

According to the 2000 Census, more than 75,000 people live within ten miles of the SRS, many of whom are represented by Ryberg.

Congressman Gresham Barrett used the most pointed language in a release about the Obama administration's decision, calling it another broken promise.

"If I seem a little angry, it's because I am. We all should be outraged. In the real world, if you pay for something and don't get it, then there are real consequences. For too long, the same hasn't held true in Washington and it's time that changed," said Barrett in the release.

He, along with Rep. Joe Wilson, said they were drafting legislation to urge the President to reconsider his decision.

President Barack Obama has said he doesn't see Yucca Mountain as a workable option. Obama energy adviser Carol Browner says the White House is "done with Yucca" and wants to find alternatives.

Copyright 2010 WMBF News and WCSC. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.