Plutonium shipping to SC delayed by faulty Colorado machine - - Columbia, South Carolina

Plutonium shipping to SC delayed by faulty Colorado machine

(Golden, Colorado-AP) Nov. 4, 2002 - Experts say a temperamental machine could slow down shipments of weapons-grade plutonium from the former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant to South Carolina.

The semi-automated machine is designed to tuck the plutonium safely into shipping containers, but plutonium removal manager Dave Hicks says one in five containers is failing safety checks. The machine was previously shut down for three weeks in September due to malfunction.

Rocky Flats managers have said they need to ship away the last of their weapons-grade plutonium by the end of 2003 to get the site cleaned up and closed down by a 2006 deadline.

Hicks says Rocky Flats will have no problem shipping the plutonium by the end of next year if packaging is completed by summer. Hicks says he's confident the machine will be fixed and the packaging finished by then.

The shipments had been held up for nearly ten months between the fall of 2001 and last summer by a dispute between the state of South Carolina and the federal government. The federal government won the lawsuit to clear the way for the shipments.

posted 2:26pm by Chris Rees

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