DOE agrees to schedule for removing plutonium secretly shipped to Nevada

Military Technology

MYSTERY WIRE — A settlement in a long-running feud between Nevada and the Trump Administration calls for the removal of weapons-grade plutonium from the state starting next year.

The shipment of one-half of a metric ton of plutonium happened illicitly as the federal government appeared to be negotiating with state leaders in good faith nearly two years ago, according to a Friday news release.

A lawsuit brought by Nevada Attorney General Aaron D. Ford revealed the shipment and caught the Department of Energy in a lie.

Nevada’s congressional delegation applauded the resolution.

“The Trump Administration attempted to mislead the courts and secretly dump radioactive plutonium in our backyard. Nevadans have Governor (Steve) Sisolak, Attorney General Ford, and our congressional delegation to thank for not letting the Department of Energy get away with it,” said Congresswoman Dina Titus.

“Time and again, the Trump Administration has treated our state as a trash can for the nation’s waste,” Titus said. “Today’s announcement is a major step toward reversing the damage inflicted upon our state and protecting the health and safety of Nevadans.”

As part of this settlement agreement, the DOE will begin in 2021 removing the one-half metric ton of plutonium currently at the Nevada National Security Site — formerly the Nevada Test Site, located about 90 miles north of Las Vegas on US95. The DOE will have this material completely removed no later than the end of 2026.

The DOE also agrees that it will not ship an additional one-half metric ton of plutonium that it originally had planned to send to Nevada from the Savannah River site in South Carolina.

The plutonium was supposed to be converted into reactor fuel as part of a nuclear arms control agreement between the United States and Russia.

Radioactive waste is stored under 5 feet of concrete in a storage building at the Savannah River Site near Aiken, S.C., in this Nov., 20, 2013, file photo. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton, File)

In April 2019, US Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto received a commitment to remove the plutonium from then-Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. That commitment provided the framework for the settlement agreement that the state struck with the DOE today.

“I am pleased to see the results of the hard work and persistence on behalf of Nevadans from the Attorney General’s Office and our federal delegation to reach this settlement agreement,” Gov. Sisolak said. “This settlement is a significant victory in our state’s efforts to keep the weapons grade material out of our state.”

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