WASHINGTON — Nevada’s lawsuit to halt a court-ordered shipment of military-grade plutonium from South Carolina to a national security site in Nye County will get a hearing later this month in federal district court in Reno.
The hearing on the state’s lawsuit is scheduled for Jan. 17 and will focus on Nevada’s request for an injunction that would halt the move of one metric ton of weapons-grade plutonium from the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina to the Nevada National Security Site.
Former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt filed the lawsuit last month to block the shipment that cited health and environmental risks in moving the plutonium through the state.
The Nevada National Security Administration issued a statement saying that it has “conducted the required National Environmental Policy Act analysis for these shipments, and all movements of this material will be carried out in a manner that complies with strict safety, security and environmental requirements.”
The DOE is under federal court order in South Carolina to move the plutonium from the site to comply with environmental laws.
Nevada claims the Trump administration violated the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 by failing to conduct an environmental impact study to determine risks for shipping the high-grade material in 35-gallon drums through states to Nevada.
The plutonium would be sent to sites in Nevada and Texas for temporary storage before being moved to New Mexico.
“The material that we are removing from the Savannah River Site will be used for national security missions and is not waste,” a National Nuclear Security Administration spokesperson said Monday.
An environmental watchdog group, Savannah River Site Watch in Columbia, South Carolina, backs the Nevada lawsuit and its request for an injunction.
“We support the effort of the state of Nevada to block the senseless and risking shuttling of plutonium across the country for no justifiable reason,” said Tom Clements, SRS Watch director.
Clements said the plutonium should remain on site in secure storage and no additional shipments should be allowed into the site.
A closer look
Included in a November letter, from Nye County Manager Tim Sutton to a federal official, was a request for an unclassified briefing.
“Nye County understands the difficult and sensitive nature of implementing national security decisions. I look forward to working with NNSA to reach a mutual understanding of how this proposed action will be implemented at the NNSS [Nevada National Security Site, as well as how it can potentially affect the human health and safety of Nye County and its residents,” Sutton wrote.