Because South Carolina had important nuclear reactors used to generate electricity, the Savannah River Site, and other activities that created low-level radioactive waste, it was considered a good state in which to locate a low-level radioactive waste disposal facility.
Chem-Nuclear began operating a low-level radioactive waste disposal facility in Barnwell County in 1970. In accordance with legislation passed by the South Carolina General Assembly in 2000, the site will be closed on June 30, 2008, to all states other than South Carolina, New Jersey, and Connecticut, which are members of the Atlantic Interstate Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management Compact.
Chem-Nuclear was organized by a group of investors whose residences were overwhelmingly in Washington State. Because South Carolina had important nuclear reactors used to generate electricity, the Savannah River Site, and other activities that created low-level radioactive waste, it was considered a good state in which to locate a low-level radioactive waste disposal facility.
After the 1979 near-meltdown at Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania, and the federal Waste Policy Act of 1980, Chem-Nuclear faced regulatory pressure on the amount of waste it could accept. Between 1980 and 2000 the South Carolina General Assembly adopted several legislative proposals to reduce the volume of waste buried at the Barnwell site. In 2000 Governor James Hodges led the effort to close the site in 2008 to all except the Atlantic Compact members.
In 1982 Chem-Nuclear was acquired by Waste Management, Inc., of Chicago and remained a subsidiary of that corporation until 1998, when it was bought by Duratek, Inc., of Columbia, Maryland. Although Chem-Nuclear has operated other lines of business related to low-level radioactive waste, including trucking, research, nuclear reactor waste management and treatment, and waste reduction, by 2004 its operations were mostly limited to managing the functions at the Barnwell disposal facility. Throughout its history Chem-Nuclear has enjoyed support from the people in Barnwell because of its record of regulatory-environmental compliance and its contributions to the economic, civic, and educational life of Barnwell County.