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Nevada files lawsuit to stop plutonium shipments to Nevada National Security Site

Posted at 11:29 AM, Dec 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-04 19:12:40-05

The state of Nevada is trying to stop the federal government from shipping weapons grade plutonium to the Nevada National Security Site, which is located about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Gov. Brian Sandoval and Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt filed a lawsuit on Nov. 30 in district court, seeking a preliminary injunction against the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

The state is arguing that the plan violates the Nevada Environmental Policy Act and associated regulations.

Nevada is charging the the DOE did not prepare a new or supplemental environmental impact statement and they failed to evaluate the cumulative impacts of future plutonium shipments to Nevada.

Specifically, DOE failed to evaluate alternatives to shipping one metric ton (about 2,200 pounds) of plutonium by January 2020, to Nevada for storage at the Device Assembly Facility. DOE failed to assure Nevada that the plutonium would be removed by a date certain. And DOE failed to address Nevada concerns that an additional amount of plutonium (6 to 34 metric tons or more) might be shipped to NNSS.

Moreover, the Nevada complaint charges that DOE’s Supplement Analysis fails to fully evaluate transportation impacts and risks, particularly regarding shipping routes in Southern Nevada that have been affected by new developments not addressed in previous DOE environmental impact statements, and that DOE has not evaluated how these plutonium shipments could specifically impact the Las Vegas metropolitan area.

Additionally, the lawsuit claims that the DOE is ignoring at least 5 other potential storage sites.

The DOE says that the plutonium would only be "staged" in Nevada before it is moved to Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

The National Nuclear Security Administration released a statement Monday

“NNSA has received notice that the State of Nevada has filed suit to stop shipments of plutonium from South Carolina to Nevada. These shipments are being undertaken to comply with a court order issued by the U.S. District Court in South Carolina. The material that we are removing from the Savannah River Site will be used for national security missions and is not waste. It will be temporarily staged at the Nevada National Security Site and Pantex Plant, which already handle and process this type of material as part of ongoing national security missions. The material will eventually be shipped to Los Alamos National Laboratory or another facility. NNSA has conducted the required National Environmental Policy Act analysis for these shipments, and all movements of this material will be carried out in a manner that complies with strict safety, security, and environmental requirements. Because this is now a matter in litigation, NNSA will be unable to respond to questions or provide further information.”