Law­suit on nuke ma­te­rial re­jected

State loses fight on plu­to­nium de­liv­ery

Las Vegas Review-Journal - - FRONT PAGE - By Colton Lochhead Re­view-jour­nal Capital Bureau

CAR­SON CITY — The 9th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals on Tues­day de­nied a request by Ne­vada of­fi­cials to block future trans­fers of nu­clear ma­te­rial from South Carolina to a fed­eral site north of Las Ve­gas.

Ne­vada filed the law­suit in Novem­ber 2018 to stop the U.S. Depart­ment of En­ergy from ship­ping half a met­ric ton of weapons-grade plu­to­nium from the Sa­van­nah River Site in South Carolina to the Ne­vada Na­tional Se­cu­rity Site. But at­tor­neys for the depart­ment ad­mit­ted in court that half a met­ric ton of plu­to­nium had al­ready been shipped to Ne­vada.

The three-judge ap­peals panel agreed with a lower court’s de­ci­sion that be­cause those ship­ments had been made be­fore the orig­i­nal law­suit was filed, Ne­vada’s ac­tion was moot.

“The rem­edy Ne­vada sought — stop­ping the gov­ern­ment from ship­ping plu­to­nium from South Carolina to Ne­vada un­der the pro­posed ac­tion — is no longer avail­able,” the judges wrote in their rul­ing.

The En­ergy Depart­ment was un­der a fed­eral court or­der in South Carolina to re­move a met­ric ton of the ma­te­rial from the Sa­van­nah River Site by Jan. 1, 2020, af­ter the depart­ment failed to fin­ish work on a long-de­layed, multi­bil­lion-dol­lar facility de­signed to trans­form the plu­to­nium into com­mer­cial re­ac­tor fuel.

In an email sent Aug. 29, 2018, the Na­tional Nu­clear Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion, the fed­eral agency in charge of main­tain­ing the na­tion’s nu­clear stock­pile, in­formed Ne­vada of­fi­cials that a plan had been de­vel­oped to move a met­ric ton of the ma­te­rial to fed­eral sites in Ne­vada, Texas and

New Mex­ico.

Then-gov. Brian San­doval sent a let­ter in late Septem­ber to En­ergy Sec­re­tary Rick Perry blast­ing the pro­posal. But it wasn’t un­til Nov. 30 that the state filed a law­suit chal­leng­ing the DOE’S plan.

Then in Jan­uary, the DOE re­vealed that it had al­ready shipped the ma­te­rial into Ne­vada some­time be­fore Novem­ber — and be­fore the state’s law­suit was filed.

Last week, the DOE an­nounced that the other half a met­ric ton of nu­clear ma­te­rial sub­ject to the

South Carolina court or­der had been sent to fed­eral sites in Texas and

New Mex­ico, but the depart­ment did not iden­tify ex­actly where it went.

Ne­vada At­tor­ney Gen­eral Aaron Ford said in a state­ment that his of­fice “will con­tinue to pur­sue all op­tions for en­sur­ing that no fur­ther un­law­ful plu­to­nium ship­ments

reach this state.”

“The Depart­ment of En­ergy’s de­ceit­ful be­hav­ior in han­dling these ship­ments demon­strates my of­fice’s need to con­tinue ag­gres­sively lit­i­gat­ing to hold the Depart­ment of En­ergy to its prom­ises,” Ford said.

Con­tact Capital Bureau Chief Colton Lochhead at [email protected] re­viewjour­ or 775-461-3820. Fol­low @Colton­lochhead on Twit­ter.

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