Nevada delegation condemns secret shipment of plutonium to state

used to be test site still has craters
Unapproved low-level radioactive waste was sent to Nevada for more than a decade. Ken Lund, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The U.S Department of Energy has disclosed it shipped a large amount of weapon-grade plutonium to Nevada without the state’s knowledge.

used to be test site still has craters
Ken Lund, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

In November, Nevada filed a request in a Reno federal court for an injunction to block a shipment of plutonium from South Carolina to the Nevada National Security Site, which is often referred to by its former name, the Nevada Test Site.

Turns out, the shipment had already happened. 

In the nine-page filing document filed today, federal lawyers said information on the shipment was previously classified due to national security: “Because sufficient time has now elapsed after conclusion of this campaign, DOE may now publicly state that it has completed all shipment of plutonium” adding that they determined the “unusual circumstances surrounding the shipment of plutonium to Nevada” was relevant to the state.

Approximately half a metric ton of plutonium was shipped from the Savannah River Site in South Carolina to the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS), located approximately 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas, in compliance with an injunction issued by the U.S. District Court in South Carolina. According to the filing, the precise date was not revealed due to “operational security” but was done before November, meaning “prior to the initiation of the litigation.”

Gov. Steve Sisolak and the Nevada congressional delegation today unanimously condemned the DOE and other involved parties for withholding the information from state officials.

I am beyond outraged by this completely unacceptable deception from the U.S. Department of Energy,” said Sisolak said in a statement. “The Department led the State of Nevada to believe that they were engaging in good-faith negotiations with us regarding a potential shipment of weapons-grade plutonium, only to reveal that those negotiations were a sham all along. They lied to the State of Nevada, misled a federal court, and jeopardized the safety of Nevada’s families and environment. My administration is working with our federal delegation, and we will use the full force of every legal tool available to fight back against the federal government’s reckless disregard for the safety of our state.”

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto said the decision by the DOE and National Nuclear Security Administration “completely disregards the health and safety of Nevadans.” She added that DOE Secretary Rick Perry and the agencies under his direction acted “in bad faith by totally ignoring the will of” former Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Cortez Masto said she planned to meet with representatives of the DOE and NNSA were she will demand answers on why “these agencies ignored a federal court and how this reckless decision was made.”

“I’ll be demanding they explain why The Trump Administration will find that I’ll be shining a bright light on this, as well as any high level effort to bring nuclear waste into our state by reviving Yucca Mountain,” said Cortez Masto in a statement. “The voices of Nevadans must be heard and I’ll be fighting for legislation that makes certain their voices are heard on this issue and this never happens behind the backs of Nevadans again.”

Sen. Jacky Rosen echoed the governor’s sentiments and threatened to take action along with him and other members of the Nevada delegation. In their own statements, Reps. Susie Lee and Steven Horsford indicated they would also join that effort.

Said Lee: “Nevada is not the nation’s nuclear dumping ground. Period. We will not stand for this.”

Jeniffer Solis
Reporter | Jeniffer was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada where she attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas before graduating in 2017 with a B.A in Journalism and Media Studies. While at UNLV she was a senior staff writer for the student newspaper, the UNLV Scarlet and Gray Free Press, and a news reporter for KUNV 91.5 FM, covering everything from the Route 91 shooting to UNLV housing. She has also contributed to the UNLV News Center and worked as a production engineer for several KUNV broadcasts before joining the Nevada Current. She’s an Aries.

1 COMMENT

  1. You have to admit though, it’s fun to drive up 95 and glance over and there’s the big bad boogeyman government airport and its runway you’re startled to see so close to the civilian highway and lo-&-behold gosh if there isn’t a real-live drone taking off right there in front of you and you get to pretend you’re a nice family including babies & children in Afghanistan about to get incinerated, mass-murdered, & wiped off the face of the Earth by these frightening-looking robot weapons that apparently don’t beyond-outrage our new governor or any of our delegation (of liberal Democrats) because after all they’re “protecting freedom”.

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