Reports have emerged that the Department of Energy (DOE) has shipped about a half-ton of weapons-grade radioactive plutonium from a site in South Carolina to a new location in Nevada. The disclosure was made as part of a federal court case in Nevada. The shipment reportedly took place prior to November of 2018, but an exact date has not been disclosed.
According to reports, the plutonium was shipped from the Savannah River Site in South Carolina to the Nevada National Security Site, located about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The transfer was made after a U.S. District Court in South Carolina ordered the material removed from the state. The National Nuclear Security Administration said in a statement that the plutonium would only be temporarily stored at the Nevada site before being moved to another facility elsewhere.
The shipment was reportedly made without Nevada’s knowledge or consent. In November of last year, state and the federal officials were still in negotiations for the transportation of the plutonium. That month, the state also sent a request to the Energy Department for specific commitments and timelines.
Nevada officials are incensed that the shipment occurred while the negotiations were still ongoing. Last November, the state filed a lawsuit against the DOE to block the shipment, but the action was apparently too late. Bruce Diamond, general counsel for the DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration, wrote in a court declaration: “Although the precise date that this occurred cannot be revealed for reasons of operational security, it can be stated that this was done before November 2018, prior to the initiation of the litigation.”
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) had harsh words for the DOE, saying 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.” The state has now filed a temporary restraining order to prevent future shipments.