State of Nevada request to stop SRS plutonium shipment goes to federal court

State of Nevada request to stop SRS plutonium shipment goes to federal court
Savannah River Site

COLUMBIA, SC (WFXG) - The State of Nevada’s effort to stop the unjustified shipment of one metric ton of surplus weapon-grade plutonium from the United States Department of Energy (DOE)’s Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina to Nevada is set to take place in a hearing on January 17, 2019 in federal court in Reno, Nevada.

The hearing will focus on Nevada’s request for a “preliminary injunction” to halt the misguided plans by DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration to package and move 1 metric ton of plutonium from SRS to the DOE’s Device Assembly Facility (DAF) at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) in Nevada. The plutonium designated for shipment is amongst approximately 13 metric tons of plutonium now stored in the old K-Reactor building at SRS.

The State of South Carolina’s effort to have the plutonium removed from SRS was part of a last-ditch effort to save DOE’s bungled plutonium fuel (MOX) project at SRS. Now that MOX termination is proceeding apace, with more layoffs announced on January 4 (see S.C. WARN Act notice linked here), the shipment of plutonium will do nothing to pressure DOE to continue the MOX project and planning for it should be halted, according to SRS Watch.

“The shipment of plutonium from SRS to Nevada serves no political or programmatic purpose whatsoever and given the security and environmental risks associated with planning for it the shipment must be immediately canceled,” according to Tom Clements, director of the public interest groups Savannah River Site Watch. “While the dilemma of what to do with the surplus weapons plutonium at SRS remains, all plutonium at SRS should remain at the site in secure storage and no additional shipments should be allowed into the site,” added Clements. “We support the effort of the State of Nevada to block the senseless and risky shuttling of plutonium across the country for no justifiable reason.”

DOE was ordered by the federal district court in Columbia, South Carolina to move the material. Subsequently, DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) prepared a cursory environmental document on the issue of the shipment and the “staging” of the plutonium at DAF. NNSA alleges that the plutonium will not be processed at DAF and that the final destination for it is the Los Alamos National Laboratory, for production of unneeded plutonium “pits” for nuclear weapons.

The State of Nevada sought the preliminary injunction against the shipment in a November 30, 2018 filing with United States District Court for the District of Nevada. On January 3, the State of South Carolina sought to intervene in the matter with the federal district court in Nevada, with an additional request that the proceeding be moved back to the federal district court in South Carolina.

On January 2, the Nevada court denied DOE’s request to “stay” the preliminary injunction and on January 4, NNSA filed its response to the State of Nevada’s preliminary injunction request.

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