Las Vegas Sun

July 17, 2019

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Nevada attorney general seeks to halt further plutonium shipments

Low-level radioactive waste

Steve Marcus

A low-level radioactive waste cell is shown in the Area 5 Radioactive Waste Management Site of the Nevada National Security Site (N2S2), previously the Nevada Test Site, about 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas on Feb. 1, 2011.

State Attorney General Aaron Ford is attempting to prevent future plutonium shipments to Nevada, continuing a fight with the federal government following a recent secret shipment of the radioactive material to a government site outside Las Vegas.

Ford filed a motion in U.S. District Court to halt any further shipments to Nevada while the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals considers a separate injunction.

The circuit court declined to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the initial shipment to the Nevada National Security Site after the Department of Energy revealed on Jan. 30 that it had already secretly transferred the plutonium from South Carolina. The site is about 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

In a statement, Ford said the motion was part of the legal strategy to “prevent Nevada from becoming a parking lot for nuclear weapons and waste.” He also dismissed any promises the Department of Energy may make regarding future shipments.

“When the Department of Energy takes unilateral action to ship dangerous material to Nevada, it robs the state of our ability to prepare for the risks associated with transporting and storing plutonium,” Ford said.

“Frankly, the Department of Energy has lost all credibility and trust, and its assurances that it will not ship any plutonium in the future aren’t worth the paper they’re written on,” he said.

Nevada politicians, including Gov. Steve Sisolak and U.S. Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen, have harshly criticized the secret shipment and the Department of Energy.