The National Security Administration today dropped a bombshell on the state of Nevada – enraging elected officials and environmental stakeholders with a court filing that revealed a shipment of a half a metric ton of plutonium to the state happened in November, without the state’s knowledge.
The shipment was in response to a U.S. District Court order in South Carolina, which mandated that the plutonium be moved out of that state.
There was no public announcement about where the plutonium was going.
Nevada filed a lawsuit on Nov. 30 to stop shipments of plutonium to the state by the NNSA. But according to Defense Daily reporter Dan Leone, as reported by the Nevada Independent, the plutonium had already been shipped before that suit was filed.
The filing, a Statement of Declaration by Bruce Diamond, general counsel for the National Nuclear Security Administration, called the movement of plutonium from one state to another – without the receiving state’s knowledge – “unusual circumstances” which were necessitated by the U.S. District Court order.
Elected representatives and community stakeholders reacted swiftly to the news.
Governor Steve Sisolak said he was “beyond outraged by this completely unacceptable deception from the U.S. Department of Energy.” He called the good-faith negotiations the state was having with the DoE a “sham,” asserting that the department “lied to the State of Nevada, misled the federal court, and jeopardized the safety of Nevada’s families and environment.”
“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,” Sisolak said. “My administration is working with our federal delegation, and we will 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.”
Congresswoman Dina Titus weighed in with equal invective:
“Time and again, we have seen Trump Administration officials treat Nevada as the dumping ground for the nation’s nuclear waste,” Titus said in a statement, adding that, “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.”
Nevada Conservation League executive director Andy Maggi called the plutonium shipment a betrayal, to both Nevadans and residents of states between South Carolina and Nevada. s
“Shipping highly-toxic material to and through our beautiful state, without proper notice, reveals this administration’s utter contempt for the people of this country, our safety, the environment, the rule of law and complete disregard for the health and safety of all Nevadans,” said Maggi. Nevada Conservation League opposes the reopening of the Nevada nuclear test site, which the Trump administration has said it wants to do.
The entirety of the statement from Diamond is below. The case number is 3:18-cv-569-MMD-CBC (for those who love combing through court records).
DECLARATION OF BRUCE M. DIAMOND
1. I, Bruce M. Diamond, declare as follows: 1. I am the General Counsel for the National Nuclear Security Administration (“NNSA”).
2. After further review of the unusual circumstances surrounding the shipment of plutonium to Nevada in compliance with the injunction issued by the U.S. District Court in South Carolina and the need to protect national security while providing as much transparency as feasible, the Department of Energy (“DOE”) has determined that certain information relevant to the Nevada litigation is now declassified and it may now provide additional information to the Court and the parties.
3. In order to provide security for its shipments of these kinds of materials DOE normally will not release information about the status of the shipment(s) until sometime after the shipping “campaign” is concluded. The agency originally determined that all shipments related to compliance with the order of the U.S. District Court in South Carolina constituted one campaign. After due consideration, and in light of the factors set out above, DOE has now decided that it may consider the shipment of plutonium to Nevada under the court order as a separate campaign.
4. Because sufficient time has now elapsed after conclusion of this campaign, DOE may now publicly state that it has completed all shipment of plutonium (approximately ½ metric ton) to Nevada pursuant to its efforts to comply with the South Carolina U.S. District Court order. 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.
This story was updated to include comments from the Nevada Conervation League.