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The US Energy Department may find itself in hot water. At issue: the reopening of a reactor in South Carolina to produce weapons-grade material for America's nuclear arsenal. If it opens, 175,000 gallons of nonradioactive, scalding hot water will pour out every minute, eventually reaching the Savannah River. This will destroy some 1,000 acres of wetlands and send into the River small quantities of radioactive material left in the runoff path from an accident during the plant's earlier operations. The US Energy Department conducted a study and says these effects aren't major enough to warrant a full environmental impact statement - which would be open to public comment. GOP Sens. Mack Mattingly of Georgia and Strom Thurmond of South Carolina are asking DOE to hold five hearings on the partial study the DOE has completed.

If the DOE doesn't agree, Mattingly suggests that Congress may require it as a condition to further DOE funding.m

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