The longtime South Carolina congressman representing the greater Aiken area, including the Savannah River Site, sharply disagrees with another congressman's demand that U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry step down following a pair of controversies.
"There is no reason for Secretary Rick Perry to resign," U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, a Republican, said in remarks provided by his office Tuesday.
U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford, a Nevada Democrat, last week called for Perry's resignation after revelations that the U.S. Department of Energy shipped noncompliant, and potentially mischaracterized, waste to the Nevada National Security Site over a period of six years – a stretch that far exceeds Perry's tenure.
"Today we found out that, against the will and consent of Nevadans, the Department of Energy has been covertly shipping dangerous radioactive waste into our state. While the DOE has long claimed it supports collaboration with the state of Nevada, today's findings, like those of the recent past, prove otherwise," Horsford said in a prepared statement posted to his website.
Horsford's district includes NNSS, which is about two hours northwest of Las Vegas.
The National Nuclear Security Administration – the Energy Department's semiautonomous nuclear stockpile and nonproliferation agency – last year shipped a half-metric ton of defense plutonium from SRS to NNSS, a relocation campaign that flared tempers in the Silver State and in Washington, D.C.
"Secretary Perry has repeatedly disrespected the people of Nevada," Horsford said in a July 10 tweet.
Nine now-questioned waste shipments were sent to Nevada between 2013 and 2018, according to the NNSA. The waste shipments – 32 containers – originated from the Y-12 installation in Tennessee. Further shipments, as of last week, were suspended.
The NNSA has launched an internal investigation, and Deputy Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette, at the direction of Perry, ordered an audit of radioactive waste policies and procedures, according to DOE spokesperson Shaylyn Hynes and a related memo.
Wilson in his statement said Perry "has surrounded himself with a knowledgeable staff" and has "taken proactive measures" to boost the nation's nuclear industry. He pointed to Perry's support of Plant Vogtle, just across the river in Georgia, and the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, a leading Pentagon nuclear policy document.
"Secretary Perry has consistently communicated with our office on actions taken by the Department of Energy in relation to South Carolina," the congressman said.
A spokesperson for U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, another South Carolina Republican, on Friday said the senator and his colleagues will "continue to keep the department accountable" and foster an "open, honest dialogue with the secretary moving forward."
Wilson and Perry have butt heads before. The energy secretary's official move last year to terminate the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility did not sit well with Wilson; he long advocated for the nuclear fuel facility's completion.
The Energy Department earlier this year battled back reports that Perry was angling to leave the administration.
"He is happy where he is serving President (Donald) Trump and leading the Department of Energy," Hynes, the spokesperson, said in remarks posted to Twitter and shared elsewhere.