The Department of Energy shipped half a ton of weapons-grade plutonium across the country from South Carolina to Nevada, despite concerns raised by state officials in Nevada about safety and worries that the state would become a dumping ground for nuclear waste.
News of the shipment, first reported by the Nevada Independent, was revealed on Wednesday, but the details remain sketchy.
National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) general counsel, Bruce Diamond, disclosed the shipment in court yesterday. But he said only that the cross-country trek happened sometime before November of 2018. Diamond insisted that he couldn’t be more specific due to national security concerns.
The timing is significant for the state of Nevada because November is when the state filed suit to stop the transfer of the plutonium. The suit was originally planned for October, but the state believed that it could negotiate with the Trump regime to find a solution that worked for both sides. The suit was only filed after it became apparent to Nevada that the Department of Energy was not going to play ball. The plutonium is currently sitting at a site roughly 70 miles north of Las Vegas, according to the Reno Gazette Journal.
“I am beyond outraged by this completely unacceptable deception from the U.S. Department of Energy,” Nevada Governor Steve 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,” he continued. “They lied to the State of Nevada, misled a federal court, and jeopardized the safety of Nevada’s families and environment.”
Sisolak further vowed to “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.”
Storage of nuclear waste in Nevada has a history that dates back decades. The federal government decided to store nuclear wasted at Yucca Mountain, roughly 90 miles outside of Las Vegas, all the way back in 1987, but the plan has been met with resistance from local leaders and activist groups ever since. The Obama administration halted plans for the disposal of nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in 2010. Last May, however, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted to direct the Department of Energy to resume the rollout.
The transfer from South Carolina to Nevada occurred only because a U.S. District Court in South Carolina found that the plutonium had to be removed from the state by January of 2020. The court found that the plutonium had to be removed from South Carolina because the NNSA failed to build a facility that could safely handle it.
Nevada’s lawsuit against the Trump regime might be moot at this point, but the state worries that the Department of Energy might be planning even more shipments in the future. Nevada is concerned that any accident, especially near the heavily populated region of Las Vegas, would be catastrophic.
“First, they sent ‘CEUSP U-233’ to the Test Site from Oak Ridge and now they’re sending us plutonium from South Carolina,” Nevada Representative Dina Titus, a Democrat, said in a statement.
“In this latest injustice, Trump’s Department of Energy misled the courts and refused to give notice to Nevada’s elected officials. If the Trump Administration thinks that making such a reckless decision under the shroud of secrecy will allow them to move forward with Yucca Mountain, they are mistaken,” she continued.
“I will work tirelessly with Governor Sisolak and the Nevada Delegation to fight the U.S. Department of Energy’s unchecked and unethical activity.”