During a stop in Aiken, the state attorney general said he disagrees with President Donald Trump's budget request to defund the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility, adding that he is pro-national security and pro-Savannah River Site.
Attorney General Alan Wilson spoke to the Aiken Republican Club on Tuesday afternoon at the group's monthly meeting. Wilson was the the scheduled guest speaker.
While the attorney general, who was first elected in 2010, primarily addressed crime in his keynote speech, he opened up about SRS and its facilities in a question-and-answer session with reporters.
When asked about Trump's budget request, Wilson said Trump and Congress have the right to fund and defund MOX to their respective pleasure.
But he doesn't have to like it. Wilson said ending the decade-long MOX project is a "bad idea."
Trump's budget request includes $220 million to safely close MOX, an under-construction venture at SRS that would, upon completion, turn plutonium into commercial reactor fuel.
The budget also includes $59 million for the pursuit of dilute and dispose, a MOX alternative.
Dilute and dispose, also known as downblending, involves mixing plutonium with inert material and burying it elsewhere. MOX supporters – U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., for example — have said that method is unproven and violates a 2010 nuclear nonproliferation agreement with Russia.
Wilson, when asked, said he does not know if Trump wants MOX killed because of its controversial nature, which is both time- and money-related.
"I can't presume to know what's in his head," Wilson said.
During the back-and-forth, Wilson also said he recently visited Washington, D.C. The attorney general said he met with "senior Department of Energy officials" during that trip.
He said they discussed "a way to resolve this matter" and "a way to benefit both national security and the state of South Carolina."
"We're having those conversations right now," Wilson added.
Wilson said the best interests of Aiken and South Carolina are, of course, being considered.
At the start of the month, U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry toured SRS and MOX.
Wilson has sued the U.S. Department of Energy – and won – for not removing plutonium from South Carolina as was mandated. In December 2017, a federal court ordered 1 ton of defense plutonium be removed from the state in two years.