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Nevada officials, experts continue reaction to secret plutonium shipment

Posted: 1:41 PM, Jan 30, 2019
Updated: 2019-02-01 02:40:01Z
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NEVADA (KTNV) — Nevada lawmakers including Gov. Steve Sisolak have issued statements regarding a secret plutonium shipment to the state of Nevada.

“I am beyond outraged by this completely unacceptable deception from the U.S. Department of Energy. 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. They lied to the State of Nevada, misled a federal court, and jeopardized the safety of Nevada’s families and environment. 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.”

Federal officials have admitted that they shipped radioactive plutonium to the Nevada National Security Site despite the state's opposition and concerns, according to an article in The Nevada Independent.

National Nuclear Security Administration General Counsel Bruce Diamond stated that the agency sent about half a metric ton of the substance sometime before November 2018.

It was in November that the state filed suit to stop that shipment because of health and environmental concerns. State officials had just met with the department of energy just a month before.

"I think this shows a level of contempt by the Trump administration to the people and elected officials of Nevada who time and time again have said that we do not want nuclear waste in our backyard," said Andy Maggi of the Nevada Conservation League and Education Fund.

Thursday, The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration said that is was inaccurate to state that the Members of the Nevada delegation were not informed of the movement.

Also stating, that The Department of Energy was as transparent as operational security would permit. With efforts made to ensure that members of Congress representing the states involved were notified of the planned movement ahead of time, as early as August 2018 .

However, former Gov. Brian Sandoval expressed his opposition to the move in late September before leaving office with Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Rep. Susie Lee both speaking out against the shipment.

I met with officials from the National Nuclear Security Administration and expressed my dismay over how they failed to inform Nevada’s Governor and its congressional delegation about their plans to bring weapons-grade plutonium into our state. While I remain hopeful we can rebuild that relationship, I made it clear that I’m fighting alongside Nevada’s congressional delegation, Attorney General Ford, and our Governor to hold them accountable and to find out when this plutonium will be removed.
-U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto

Energy department lawyers said no more shipments of weapons-grade plutonium were planned from South Carolina to Nevada, according to reports.

"We're having good faith discussion and negotiations with the department of energy and the federal government but they did ship the plutonium," said Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford.

The Nevada National Security Site, formerly known as the Nevada Test Site, is located about 100 miles north of Las Vegas.

13 Action News also reached out to the Nevada Highway Patrol. The department has a commercial enforcement unit made up of 20 law enforcement personnel.

That unit is supposed to be notified anytime there is a dangerous transport. According to NHP, that didn't happen here.

"What I'm concerned with and what we should be concerned with is that it was transported without prior notification so that we can take the proper and necessary precautions prior to that material traveling through our city," said Douglas Sims, a professor of environmental science at College of Southern Nevada.