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South Carolina editorial roundup

Associated Press Updated: April 8, 2015 at 3:48 pm
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Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

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April 7

Aiken (South Carolina) Standard on restarting Yucca project:

As Harry Reid prepares for his 2016 exit, it's time to let the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository proceed.

The controversial senator from Nevada has wielded his rather self-enriching power in Washington, D.C., for many years now to stop the project from moving forward in his hometown.

Reid, who served as U.S. Senate majority leader from 2007 to 2015, is said to have worked with the White House to essentially shelve the project, which was a purely political move. President Barack Obama and his administration cut funding for Yucca in 2010, saying it wasn't a "workable option." Reid even bragged on his Senate website that "I am proud that after more than two decades of fighting the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump, the project has finally been terminated."

This decision not only kept 72,000 tons of highly radioactive waste spread across the United States at a standstill, it effectively scratched a decades-old decision by Congress to designate Yucca Mountain as the nation's repository for nuclear waste.

Fortunately, with Reid's announcement that he will not be seeking re-election in 2016, the nuclear waste solution favored for years by the federal government may be back in the works.

Indications are, according to Tim Frazier of the Bipartisan Policy Center in an interview with Bloomberg, that Senate Democrats who were less likely to back the proposed site with Reid in charge may feel free to actually do so with him out of the picture. That's certainly a positive sign.

Congress actually designated Yucca Mountain as the nation's site to store radioactive waste from commercial reactors in 1987. Delays and lawsuits kept the site from opening in 1998 as planned. However, work continued and billions of dollars were spent preparing the Yucca Mountain facility, including dollars South Carolinians paid in utility surcharges specifically for that project. Meanwhile, this waste has been sitting in temporary storage facilities at places such as the Savannah River Site waiting for a permanent home.

The government's attempt to pull the wool over everyone's eyes as Yucca Mountain was shelved didn't go unnoticed. The Government Accountability Office, an independent federal watchdog agency, has stated that the closure was for political, not technical or safety reasons.

Yucca Mountain already had cost an eye-opening $12 billion by the time it was shut down. At this stage, those are taxpayer dollars effectively wasted because of Obama's wilting to the political pressures of Reid and Reid's home state of Nevada, an early primary and swing state for presidential elections.

Also, according to the New York Times, a permanent repository would offer a nationwide solution for more than 65,000 metric tons of spent fuel currently being stored near reactors in 33 states - an amount expected to double by 2055.

This decision by Obama and his administration injudiciously left commercial nuclear facilities without any designated long-term storage site for waste. With Reid gone, it's time to reboot this project and reset Yucca Mountain as a safe and permanent storage facility.

Reid has already predicted that U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the No. 3 Senate Democrat in leadership and a close friend, would win the Democratic leader post without opposition. Let's hope Schumer, known himself to be relentless and hands-on, allows his colleagues in Wasington, D.C. to make up their own minds about Yucca Mountain and reaffirm the repository as a permanent storage site.

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has misguidedly indicated that what's needed is a new round of studies to develop facilities in multiple states. Billions of dollars and decades of research point to Yucca Mountain as the solution. New studies and additional research would just be a new round of wasteful spending by the Department of Energy and the Obama administration.

Green-lighting the project once again makes the most sense, especially since the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission just deemed Yucca Mountain as a suitable destination for storage last fall.

The longer that facility sits idle, the more it becomes a testament to the cronyism and insufficiencies of government. Central to that putrid picture of our politics should be Reid and his years of distorted obstruction.

Online:

http://www.aikenstandard.com

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April 7

Post and Courier, Charleston, South Carolina, on the Pentagon:

Yes, the Pentagon needs more money to preserve the nation's military edge. But it could also do better in managing the money and the equipment it has. Defense projects regularly turn up on lists of wasteful spending. And now it turns out that there is also a problem with sticky fingers.

The Web-based investigative reporting organization called The Intercept has published a report by the Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) seeking help in finding and recovering sensitive night-vision devices originally issued to military units to help them avoid Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and for other combat uses.

The report said many of the items have turned up for sale on the Internet, marketed as sporting goods, hunting equipment, bird-watching tools and camping equipment.

The Intercept found two of the items listed in the NCIS report for sale on the Internet, including a Universal Thermal Monocular for $6,000 and a Clip-On Night Vision Device Thermal System for $16,599 in "new condition."

The military items come from approximately 32,000 "deployment kits" issued to military units since 2009. "Items in the deployment kits are NOT for civilian use," says the NCIS report, adding that they cannot be exported without a license.

It said NCIS and the FBI have recovered a number of items and determined that their loss was due to "poor accountability controls in many of the military units who were issued the gear."

Expressing a concern that the military items for sale on the Internet might fall into hostile hands, the report said, "NCIS asks for your help in identifying and recovering these items to keep foreign entities from exploiting the technologies in these devices and using them against the U.S. military, NATO allies, or civilian law enforcement personnel during the course of their duties."

It's a rare case for encouraging federal employees to scope out the Internet at work.

Online:

http://www.postandcourier.com

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April 4

The Island Packet, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, on I-95 safety:

Drivers received great news recently. State highway officials are planning safety improvements on Interstate 95 in Jasper County following an investigation by The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette.

The stretch has been dubbed the "coffin corridor" because of the alarming number of fatal wrecks that are tree-related.

While law enforcement and municipal leaders have raised red flags in the past several years about the treacherous nature of the stretch of road, they lacked the data and a big enough bullhorn to get the attention of state leaders.

So The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette decided to look for answers: 1) Is the stretch of road more dangerous than other parts of I-95, as local leaders suspect? 2) Do trees play a role, as the leaders suggest? 3) What can be done to make it safer?

The findings were surprising:

During the past five years, 16 people have died in tree-related crashes along the 35-mile stretch. That's more fatalities than in any other South Carolina county that I-95 touches.

About 75 percent of the fatalities along the Jasper County stretch involved hitting trees.

While state highway safety guidelines suggest a 30-foot clear zone on both sides of any interstate, the guideline is ignored in much of Jasper County. In some spots, trees are 10 feet or so off the road. That means that, when drivers run off the road, they lack the adequate space and time to correct for the error. Far too often, these drivers hit trees and die. Even small, scrawny pines can prove deadly when a car is traveling at highway speeds, experts told us.

Many readers said the trees shouldn't take the blame. It's distracted driving that is the real culprit, they said. It's speeding and drunken driving, others said. It's potholes, still others contend.

Indeed, all of these are reasons why drivers run off I-95 in Jasper County. From our investigation, we know the list also includes tire problems; medical issues; young people lacking highway driving experience; and inclement weather.

Unfortunately, government is limited in these areas. It's incumbent upon drivers to buckle up, put down the cellphone, stay awake and drive defensively.

What government can — and should — do is stop ignoring the deadly I-95 trend in Jasper County. It should schedule improvements that will lessen the likelihood that those who run off the road — for whatever reason — pay for the mistake with their lives.

We're pleased that the safety project, planned to start this winter, will likely include two effective ways to save lives: cutting trees in the medians and installing cable barriers.

If the project comes to fruition, it will mark quite a change for the S.C. Department of Transportation, which had not planned to work on I-95 in Jasper County until at least 2017, according to budget documents. And that was to be routine maintenance, not safety improvements.

While we don't like to see trees cut down, this is one of those times that it is necessary. Targeted tree-cutting — not mass clear cutting — paired with the installation of barrier cables must be done.

That's not to say other improvements aren't needed. Potholes and other maintenance must be addressed. And long term, I-95 may need to be widened. We hope DOT will take these items into account.

For today, we're glad to finally be on DOT's radar. It has taken a long time for Jasper County to even get that.

Online:

http://www.islandpacket.com

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