Nevada Sues Over Unannounced Plutonium Shipment from SRS By Esme Rodehaver

Nevada Lawsuit Over Unannounced Plutonium Shipment 

In August of 2018, the federal Department of Energy (DOE) approved the transfer of a metric ton of weapons grade plutonium from their Savannah River Site in South Carolina to the Nevada National Security Site. In response, the State of Nevada filed a lawsuit against the DOE as well as the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) in order to halt these shipments over safety concerns of this plan. Despite agreeing not to initiate any shipments at all before February 2019, the DOE revealed on January 30th that the shipment of ½ metric tons of plutonium to the site had already been completed. The next day, Nevada requested that the U.S District Courts immediately order the temporary restrainment of further shipments, but were denied by a federal Judge. As of February 1, 2019, the DOE has assured that it does not intend to ship any more of the plutonium to Nevada, but Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford insists that the court ordered shipment block is still necessary because the DOE has already violated their previous agreement not to initiate transport.

The Energy Department is under federal court orders to transport the plutonium from the Savannah River Site to The Nevada National Security Site by 2020 to comply with environmental laws. Nevada is pushing back against this order over concerns that the Department of Energy has not properly studied the detrimental effects of moving this volume of highly radioactive material into their state. It argues that the DOE is compelled by the National Environmental Policy Act to undertake an environmental impact study to assess the potential risks to the environment and safety of Nevada citizens such as contamination of lands and groundwater. The DOE and NNSA maintain that it has safely transported radioactive materials to this site before, that these potential risks are only hypothetical, and that it is up to the State of Nevada to complete its own research.

As of February 1, lawyers for the State of Nevada and the federal government are working to schedule a status update hearing for this case. The Governor of Nevada, Steve Sisolak, commented to the Las Vegas Review Journal that the state is considering initiating a contempt of court order against the Energy Department for obscuring its intentions from congress and the legislature of Nevada. Sisolak said: “They lied to the state of Nevada, misled a federal court, and jeopardized the safety of Nevada’s families and environment.” The Energy Department has skirted these accusations of deception by claiming that the timing of the first shipment of plutonium was kept classified for operational security reasons, and that “it is inaccurate to state that the Members of the Nevada delegation were not informed of this movement.”

In accordance with our mission of nuclear harm reduction, Georgia WAND stands in solidarity with the citizens and State of Nevada. We believe that an environmental impact study is imperative to understanding the public health and environmental implications of the transport of such a high volume of radioactive material across state lines.

For more information please see the following links:
News Articles: https://www.wrdw.com/content/news/SRS-plutonium-secretly-moved-to-Nevada-505106441.html
https://www.reviewjournal.com/news/politics-and-government/nevada/weapons-grade-plutonium-secretly-sent-to-facility-north-of-las-vegas-1585731/
Court filing:https://www.scribd.com/document/398587202/Plutonium-Court-Filing#from_embed
DOE’s position:https://www.energy.gov/articles/energy-department-statement-plutonium-shipments-nevada

For more info contact Janie Hill-Scott at janie@georgiawand.org.