By Larry Taylor
The Department of Energy has shipped approximately 1/2 metric ton of weapons-grade plutonium from Savannah River Site to Nevada, a court filing states.
It is not known when the shipment occurred, but a notice of new information filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada dated Jan. 30 said it was before November 2018.
In the filing, Bruce M. Diamond, the general counsel for the National Nuclear Security Administration, a semi-autonomous of the Department of Energy, states, "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 1/2 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."
The Associated Press reported that Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak is "beyond outraged by this completely unacceptable deception" and said he's working with Nevada's congressional delegation to fight back against the U.S. government's "reckless disregard" for the safety of Nevadans.
On Nov. 30, the state of Nevada filed a lawsuit in district court in Reno to halt the shipment to the Nevada National Security Site. The suit alleged that DOE has not complied with the National Environmental Policy Act.
The shipment was from the K-Reactor storage facility at SRS to staging the Device Assembly Facility at the Nevada Nuclear Security Site.
"The shipment of this large amount of plutonium on our nation's highways has no justification beyond pleasing the federal court in South Carolina and due to the environmental and security risks it posed sit should have never taken place," said Tom Clements, director of the public interest group Savannah River Site Watch. "We hope that this shipment concludes the campaign to transfer plutonium from SRS to Nevada and that the remaining plutonium at SRS remains in secure storage until a disposition path is clear."
A second progress report on the efforts to remove one metric ton of defense plutonium from SRS was filed by the Department of Energy in December.
The report, filed in federal district court in Columbia, was signed by David R. Bowman, the deputy associate administrator for counterterrorism and counterproliferation, and project director, SRS materials disposition.
It states that "the Department has devoted significant resources and attention to complying with the Court's injunctive order while at the same time ensuring that the removal of defense plutonium occurs as safely as possible in compliance with all applicable laws. As a result of these efforts, the Department remains confident that it will be able to meet the Court's deadline of January 1, 2020."
The report was prepared and submitted in accordance with the Dec. 20, 2017, order of injunctive relief issued by the district court. It was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va., in late October.
"At this time DOE anticipates being able to ship the one metric ton of defense plutonium to other sites for interim staging prior to the deadline in the court order," the report read.
Under DOE's current plans, the material will be "temporarily staged" at the Nevada National Security Site and the government's Pantex Plant in Texas, two facilities that already handle and process plutonium, before eventually being sent to the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico "or another facility" by 2027.
(c)2019 The Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Ga.)