RENO, Nev. (AP) — Governor Sisolak and Attorney General Ford held a press conference today in response to the U.S. Department of Energy's notification that half a metric ton of plutonium was shipped to the state of Nevada prior to November 2018.
According to Helen Kalla, Director of Communications at the Governor Sisolak's Office, Nevada has filed a motion for restraining order to prevent any further shipments into the state.
Kalla also says the state is seeking any and all legal remedies against the Department of Energy officials who misled state officials and the Federal Court judge – including contempt of court orders.
The U.S. Department of Energy has disclosed that it already has shipped one-half metric ton of weapons-grade plutonium to a nuclear security site in Nevada that the state has been trying to block in a federal court battle.
The Justice Department notified a federal judge in Reno Wednesday the government had already trucked the radioactive material to the site north of Las Vegas when Nevada filed a request for an injunction to block the move in November.
Department lawyers said in a 9-page filing that the previously classified information about the shipment from South Carolina can be disclosed now because enough time has passed to protect national security.
Nevada and South Carolina are jostling for a home-field advantage of sorts in a federal court battle that could result in a metric ton of weapons-grade plutonium being stored 70 miles (113 kilometers) from Las Vegas.
A U.S. district judge in Reno currently is considering Nevada's request to block any of the radioactive shipments from a federal facility in South Carolina to Nevada's nuclear security site.
South Carolina's lawyers want the case moved to their state where a federal judge issued an order earlier that the plutonium be removed from the Savannah River site by Jan. 1, 2020.
Both sides claim the legal upper hand in new court filings regarding the proper forum to examine the U.S. Department of Energy's decision last August to truck the plutonium to Nevada without further environmental review.
U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen released the following statement condemning the Department of Energy for misleading the state of Nevada and a federal court by failing to provide Members of the Nevada delegation with notice concerning NNSA’s plutonium shipment.
Today, the National Nuclear Security Administration revealed that it moved forward with shipping dangerous, weapons-grade plutonium to our state without informing anyone of their plans,” said Senator Rosen. “They misled a federal court along with Members of Nevada’s delegation, including our very own governor, in a deceitful and unethical move, jeopardizing the health and safety of thousands of Nevadans and Americans who live in close proximity to shipment routes. This is a serious issue and the lack of transparency from the Department of Energy is absolutely unacceptable. I am prepared to take action with Governor Sisolak and the Nevada delegation in holding this Administration accountable for this reckless decision.
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak says he's "beyond outraged." He says he's working with Nevada's congressional delegation to fight back against the U.S. government's "reckless disregard" for the safety of Nevadans.
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.
U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto released this statement about the plutonium shipped for storage in Nevada:
It’s unconscionable that the Department of Energy (DOE) and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) went into federal court in Nevada and failed to disclose that they shipped weapons grade plutonium into our backyards. Not only did Secretary Perry and the agencies under his direction act in bad faith by totally ignoring the will of our Governor, their decision also completely disregards the health and safety of Nevadans. Tomorrow, I’ll have representatives of the DOE and NNSA in my office to brief me. I’ll be demanding they explain why these agencies ignored a federal court and how this reckless decision was made. The Trump Administration will find that I’ll be shining a bright light on this, as well as any high level effort to bring nuclear waste into our state by reviving Yucca Mountain. The voices of Nevadans must be heard and I’ll be fighting for legislation that makes certain their voices are heard on this issue and this never happens behind the backs of Nevadans again.
Rep. Susie Lee released the following statement about the shipment about the Department of Energy's shipment to Nevada:
This move by the Department of Energy is deceptive and dangerous. Nevada officials were deceived by sham ‘negotiations’ while the safety of millions was jeopardized, as was the environment and economy of dozens of states. Nevada is not the nation’s nuclear dumping ground. Period. Governor Sisolak and his office have the full backing of my office and have my support to pursue any action he has at his disposal. We will not stand for this.