U.S. Department of Energy officials are just now spilling a big secret: They shipped weapons-grade plutonium from South Carolina to Nevada months ago—over the state’s strong protests and in the middle of legal wrangling over that very issue.
Plutonium is extremely toxic and can be used in making nuclear weapons, so most states aren’t interested in storing it. Turns out that the U.S. government trucked in half a metric ton of the radioactive material to a site near Las Vegas before Nevada asked a court to block the plutonium move last November.
Department of Energy lawyers are releasing classified information about the shipment now because enough time has passed to protect national security. But they won’t say when the plutonium made the cross-country trip.
Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak calls the months-long negotiations with Energy Department officials over the plutonium shipment a “total sham.”
“They lied to the state of Nevada, misled a federal court, and jeopardized the safety of Nevada’s families and environment,” Sisolak says.
The newly elected governor is exploring options for the plutonium that has already arrived and is working with Nevada’s congress to fight back against the U.S. government’s “reckless disregard” for the safety of Nevadans. The state is also seeking another court order to block any more shipments of plutonium.
Nevada lawyers argue that the Energy Department failed to fully study the possible dangers of moving the material. They add that the state’s lands and groundwater may already be contaminated with radioactive materials.
U.S. government lawyers insist that no more shipments of weapons-grade plutonium are planned from South Carolina to Nevada.
But lawyers for Nevada say an emergency ban is more critical than ever after the Energy Department misled them. They say the government has created the distinct feeling that more shipments are headed to Nevada.
Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. — 1 Peter 3:10
(A CSX Train with spent nuclear fuel passes through Florence, SC, on its way to the Savannah River Site Weapons Complex. Jeff Chatlosh/The Morning News via AP)