Nevada vows to fight plan to send plutonium to security site


Nevada’s elected officials reacted with alarm Thursday to a Department of Energy proposal to send a ton or more of weapons-grade plutonium to the Nevada National Security Site.

The security site, formerly known as the test site, has seen small amounts of plutonium before but that was for weapons testing.

This proposal, from the Department of Energy, would be the first time, according to Nevada officials, that plutonium would be stored here, potentially indefinitely.

"I have been made aware that @Energy intends to store plutonium in Nevada with no timeline for removal. I will fight this at every level," Governor Brian Sandoval, R-Nevada, tweeted.

The plutonium up to a ton would be sent here by 2020 from South Carolina because a facility there has not been finished that would re-purpose the material. Another ton would be scheduled to be sent here in 2021.

"Doe is addressing South Carolina's concerns by screwing Nevada," tweets Congresswoman Dina Titus.

“It's very concerning to open the door to this high-level material with an indefinite pathway out of this state when we have Yucca right next door,” says Bradley Crowell, the Director of Nevada’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Crowell brings up Nevada's other nuclear issues: Yucca Mountain, the proposed nuclear waste dump the Trump administration wants to open, which sits mothballed and dormant and that Nevada successfully stalled for years.

Plutonium, at the security site, is a separate issue. However, conservationists see another agenda by sending plutonium here.

“This is about a test run to see what storage and transportation of nuclear material looks like to Nevada,” says Andy Maggi, the Executive Director of the Nevada Conservation League.

State officials reacted to the proposal with alarm.

“Not only does shipping up to one metric ton of plutonium across the country likely present risks to those living along the proposed transportation routes, storing this material just a few miles from #LasVegas could threaten the health and safety of Nevadans and our tourism economy,” tweets Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada.

“I have serious concerns with (Department of Energy) Secretary Perry recklessly pushing this proposal forward without properly assessing the impact that transporting and storing up to one metric ton of weapons-grade plutonium would have on Nevadans’ health and safety. I urge DOE to conduct a full environmental analysis,” said Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nevada, in a statement.

Yucca Mountain will take years – if ever – to become operational. One worry is also that DOE could reclassify the plutonium as nuclear waste and send it to Yucca when it’s ready.

“That’s not an inconceivable scenario,” says Greg Lovato, the Administrator of Nevada’s Division of Environmental Protection.

In the meantime, Nevada plans to fight plutonium coming here.

“We're looking at all legal options because we believe that the supplemental analysis issued by the department is insufficient for this type of activity,” says Bradley Crowell.

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