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Mediation Could Play a Role in Plutonium Dispute

Wednesday, October, 23, 2019

The federal government has announced the mediation could play a role in resolving South Carolina’s plutonium fines lawsuit. Previous negotiation attempts have proven unsuccessful thus far, but according to a September 27th court filing, “mediation might serve to renew the parties’ effort to explore whether the dispute can be resolved.”


South Carolina disagreed with the assertion and accused the federal government of “filing to engage in good faith settlement discussions.” The dissension was expressed in a single sentence response from state government officials and paralleled the state’s arguments made in a lower court in previous months.


The dispute began when South Carolina filed a lawsuit against the federal government in 2018. It was hoping to recover $200 million in fines levied against the Energy Department for having failed to remove plutonium from the Savannah River. The site in question is located about a half hour south of Aiken.


In 2016, federal law mandated the Energy Department pay South Carolina $1 million for each day up to 100 days the department did not process plutonium at the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility. The MOFFF was a never-completed project. The fine also had to be paid for everyday it did not get one metric ton of nuclear material out of South Carolina. The total fine reached $200 million between 2016 and 2017, which is the amount the state is seeking in the lawsuit.


Negotiations began in October 2018, but soon unraveled. Now, the most recent court decision in the matter will be appealed. The September 25th appeals filing reads “the court below erred in failing to order the United States to pay sums owed to the state.”