The US government secretly shipped a large amount of weapons-grade plutonium from the East Coast state of South Carolina to the Western state of Nevada months ago despite the state’s protests.
The US Department of Energy revealed on Wednesday that 1,100 pounds (500 kg) of plutonium was shipped from the K-Reactor at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, which had produced the radioactive metal for nuclear bombs during the Cold War.
The radioactive material was sent to the Device Assembly Facility at the Nevada Nuclear Security Site, about 70 miles (113 km) north of Las Vegas.
The United States built the Savannah River Site during the 1950s to produce basic materials for nuclear weapons, mostly tritium and plutonium-239.
The Energy Department did not reveal when the shipment was made, other than it occurred before November 2018, before Nevada had sued to stop the proposed shipments. It said due to security reasons no public notice was given ahead of the shipment and the highway route was not revealed.
The US Justice Department, on behalf of the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, said in a notice filed with a US court in Reno, Nevada, that it could reveal the shipment because sufficient time had elapsed after the transfer to protect national security.
The US court in Nevada has been considering an effort by the state of Nevada to stop planned shipments of Plutonium that the Energy Department announced last August.
The revelation angered politicians from Nevada, a sparsely populated state where the federal government has long wanted to store nuclear waste.
Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak said he’s “beyond outraged by this completely unacceptable deception.” He announced at a hastily called news conference in Carson City late Wednesday the state is now seeking another court order to block any more shipments of plutonium as it pursues “any and all legal remedies,” including contempt of court orders against the federal government.
US Senator Jack Rosen, a Democrat from Nevada, said the Energy Department misled a federal court “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.”
She said she and other state politicians were prepared to take action against the department.
Dina Titus, another Nevada Democrat and a member of the US House of Representatives, said the administration of President Donald Trump has repeatedly tried to use Nevada as a dumping ground for nuclear waste.
Trump revived a decades-old proposal to store the nation’s nuclear waste at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain after the project was essentially halted by former President Barack Obama.