Nevada Democrats continue to push against secret plutonium shipment

NNSS
Nevada National Security site after cleanup. | Photo: U.S. Department of Energy
NNSS
Nevada National Security site after cleanup. | Photo: U.S. Department of Energy

Democratic lawmakers sent a joint letter to the Department of Energy seeking additional information on the transport of one-half metric ton of weapons-grade plutonium to Nevada.

The letter comes a day after a federal judge denied a preliminary injunction by Nevada officials to prevent further plutonium shipments to the state.

In the letter lawmakers urge the DOE and its National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to provide greater transparency surrounding the shipment of plutonium to Nevada National Security Site, located 65 miles outside of Las Vegas. It asks for a detailed timeline of the shipment, including the shipments route and all states the plutonium traveled through, and a report of future shipments of hazardous material and projects involving the security site.

Lawmakers also asked for more information on when the material would be removed to Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, or other facilities, demanding all requested information be delivered to their offices no later than Feb. 10.

After a disclosure by the DOE on Wednesday revealed that a large amount of weapons-grade plutonium had already shipped to Nevada without the state’s knowledge, Gov. Steve Sisolak said the state had been “deceived,” arguing the DOE “lied to the State of Nevada” and “misled a federal court” by entering negotiations on a potential shipment of plutonium with Nevada although the shipment was already made.

In response to the backlash, the Energy Department said in a statement it was “inaccurate to state that the Members of the Nevada delegation were not informed of this movement,” adding that the department “was as transparent as operational security would permit.”

Efforts to notify state officials representing Nevada of the planned movement ahead of time were made as early as August 2018 when NNSA publicly released the plan in a Supplement Analysis, according to the DOE.

In statements released in conjunction with the joint letter, Reps. Dina Titus, Steven Horsford and Susie Lee, as well as Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen, pledged to work with Gov. Steve Sisolak to remove the plutonium from Nevada and contest future shipments through the courts and any other legal method available.

Rep. Mark Amodei, the lone Republican in Nevada’s congressional delegation, has not commented publicly on the issue. He is not part of the letter.

“The Trump Administration’s Energy Department misled the entire state of Nevada, including our Governor and the federal courts, in a deceitful and unethical act that could have endangered the health and safety of thousands in our state,” said Rosen in her statement. “This decision was irresponsible and what has occurred is completely unacceptable.”

Titus mirrored that sentiment in her statement: “I know from experience that you can’t trust the Department of Energy, especially under the Trump Administration, but we must do all we can to provide transparency and get at the truth in order to protect the people of Nevada. We will look them in the eye, hold their feet to the fire, and ask the tough questions while exercising all other possible legal and legislative remedies.”

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.

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