nuclear-news

The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope

Deception and mistrust between Nevada and Department of Energy, over secret plutonium shipment


The Indy Explains: How a secret plutonium shipment exacerbated mistrust between Nevada and Department of Energy, The Nevada Independent By Daniel Rothberg 18 Feb 19,  The secretive Nevada plutonium shipment that has spawned angry rhetoric from Nevada politicians has a history that starts with Russia. In 2000, the United States entered into a pact with Russia to set aside excess weapons-grade plutonium for civilian use in nuclear reactors. Congress then passed a law that it would turn the excess 34 metric tons of plutonium into MOX, or mix-oxide fuel, at a newly built facility in South Carolina.

But that statute came with a firm deadline: If the MOX facility was not operational by 2014, the Department of Energy would be required to move one metric ton of plutonium stored at South Carolina’s Savannah River Site, a nuclear facility built in the 1950s, within two years.

After years of cost overruns and technical challenges, the Trump administration scrapped the facility. Meanwhile, the state of South Carolina obtained a court order in 2017 requiring the Department of Energy enforce the deadline and move the metric ton of plutonium by 2020.

Less than one year later, the agency said it moved a half-ton of that plutonium to the Nevada National Security Site. The action came after months of questioning from state officials, and its furtive nature has spurred a lawsuit, driving a deep chasm between the state and the agency.

Four months after South Carolina obtained the court order, Nevada officials heard that the federal government might be sending some of the plutonium to the state, according to court records. From August to November, state officials began asking questions about the potential shipment. But Nevada officials received few assurances from Department of Energy officials.

Beyond a general ‘expectation’ that any plutonium would be removed by approximately 2026-27, [a November 20] letter did not contain any of the requested assurances,” Pam Robinson, the policy director for then-Gov. Brian Sandoval, wrote in a December affidavit.

What Nevada officials didn’t know: the United States had already moved the plutonium.

Who knew what when

That surprising disclosure came months later — on January 30 — when a general counsel for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) disclosed that the agency had made a half-ton plutonium shipment from South Carolina to the Nevada Test Site prior to November.

Gov. Steve Sisolak responded to the revelation with a heated statement, pledging to continue existing litigation and keep the Department of Energy accountable.I am beyond outraged by this completely unacceptable deception from the U.S. Department of Energy,” he said to the media. “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.”

Members of the state’s congressional delegation also released fiery responses.

State officials worry that the plutonium shipment to the testing facility, which is about 65 miles outside of Las Vegas and occupies an area the size of Rhode Island, could set a precedent for the federal government to send more nuclear materials to the state.

In court filings, lawyers for Attorney General Aaron Fordalso argued the federal government failed to fully inventory the environmental impacts of the size and type of plutonium being sent to the highly guarded site.

They also view the action as a backdoor move to open Yucca Mountain, the controversial nuclear waste repository that sits in the remote desert about 100 miles outside of Las Vegas.

The NNSA disputes all of these claims. ………

“Plutonium is nasty stuff,” said Allison Macfarlane, a George Washington University science and technology professor who chaired the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission from 2012 to 2014. “But we’ve made so much of it on the weapons side in this country — and the civilian side in other countries — that we really need to manage it very carefully unless we eliminate it.”

With South Carolina’s MOX facility mothballed, the options are more limited…….. https://thenevadaindependent.com/article/indy-explains-how-a-secret-plutonium-shipment-created-mistrust-betw

Advertisements

February 19, 2019 - Posted by | - plutonium, OCEANIA, secrets,lies and civil liberties

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: