Congressman: Energy secretary should quit over waste shipments to NV
Eds: Updates with Rep. Horsford calling for Energy Secretary Perry's resignation; with BC-US--Nuclear Waste-Nevada
RENO, Nev. (AP) - The Latest on shipments of low-level radioactive waste to Nevada that may have been mislabeled and out of regulatory compliance (all times local):
A Nevada congressman is calling for Energy Secretary Rick Perry's resignation after the department acknowledged low-level radioactive waste that was shipped to a site north of Las Vegas may have been mislabeled and out of compliance with safety regulations for years.
Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford said Wednesday that Perry has disrespected the people of Nevada and eroded public trust in his ability to abide by rules established for nuclear waste disposal.
The material is unrelated to weapons-grade plutonium that the department secretly shipped to the same site last year and is currently at the center of a legal battle with the state of Nevada in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
But Horsford says it's further evidence that Nevada has been covertly coerced into illegally storing nuclear materials. He says Perry must resign immediately.
The U.S. Energy Department has suspended shipments of low-level radioactive waste from Tennessee to Nevada while it investigates whether the materials were being mislabeled and shipped out of compliance with state or federal regulations for several years.
Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said in a statement Wednesday that none of the materials shipped as early as 2013 from the Y-12 facility in Tennessee posed any health or safety threats to workers or the general public.
But she said the shipments slated for disposal at the Nevada National Security Site north of Las Vegas were not in compliance with the site's acceptance criteria and were "potentially mischaracterized" as the wrong category of low-level waste for years.
She says the department's National Nuclear Security Administration has launched an internal investigation "to determine how this went undetected" for up to six years.
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Governor Steve Sisolak is demanding answers after his office says the U.S. Department of Energy shipped unauthorized low-level radioactive waste to Nevada from Tennessee.
According to the governor's office, Governor Sisolak was contacted July 3, 2019 by Deputy Secretary Daniel Brouilette from the U.S. Department of Energy who informed the Governor that the DOE has been shipping to and disposing of unapproved low-level radioactive waste from DOE’s Y-12 facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee at the Nevada National Security Site. The governor's office says the classified low-level waste from the Y-12 facility violated the NNSS Waste Acceptance Criteria which establishes the protocols for what type of low-level waste is suitable for disposal at the Site.
The governor, along with US Senators Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen, sent a letter to Secretary Rick Perry regarding the shipments.
In a statement released Wednesday, July 10, the governor said:
“I was beyond disappointed to learn of problems related to shipments of low-level radioactive waste from the DOE’s Y-12 facility to Nevada. My office worked diligently with our state agencies and federal delegation to immediately compile questions and demand answers in a letter issued to Secretary Perry. Additionally, we were able to receive an in-person briefing at DOE’s Las Vegas office yesterday with updates on the situation by senior level officials from the DOE and NNSS to ensure any information communicated to Nevadans is as accurate as possible. While we appreciate the courtesy of the in-person briefing, we will continue to do everything in the state’s power to hold them accountable, ensure there is a plan to fix this problem and prevent it from occurring again, and above all else, protect the health and safety of Nevadans. There shouldn’t be a single person who attended yesterday’s briefing who didn’t receive that message loud and clear.”
Governor Sisolak's office says the unapproved low-level waste from the Y-12 facility in Tennessee began in 2013 and included 32 total shipments. The last shipment of which arrived at NNSS in December 2018.