Nevada suing US in bid to block plan for plutonium shipments

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LAS VEGAS (AP) - Nevada is suing the federal government in a bid to stop announced plans to ship plutonium from South Carolina to a former U.S. nuclear proving ground north of Las Vegas.

In a statement Tuesday, outgoing Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval and Attorney General Adam Laxalt repeated a vow that the state will fight the Department of Energy plan to store radioactive bomb-making material at the Nevada Nuclear Security Site.

The lawsuit was filed Friday. Sandoval says Nevada won't stand for the threat the shipments could pose to public health and safety.

Security site spokesman Gregory Wolf says the Energy Department has been ordered by a federal judge in South Carolina to move plutonium from the federal Savannah River complex by January 2020.

Wolf says the material is expected to eventually be sent to Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

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STATEMENT FROM GOVERNOR SANDOVAL'S OFFICE:

Governor Brian Sandoval and Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt announced today that the State of Nevada has filed a lawsuit challenging a Federal Government plan to ship weapons grade plutonium to the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS).

The lawsuit, filed Friday (November 30, 2018) in the U.S. District Court in Nevada, seeks a preliminary injunction against the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). Nevada’s motion argues that the DOE/NNSA plan for plutonium storage at NNSS, contained in a document called a Supplement Analysis released to the public on August 30, 2018, violates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and associated regulations.

“As I have made clear throughout my tenure as Governor, Nevada will not stand for anything that could potentially harm the health, safety and/or welfare of our citizens,” Governor Brian Sandoval said. “So long as I am Governor of the Silver State, Nevada will fight this issue at every level.”

Nevada charges that DOE failed to prepare a new or supplemental environmental impact statement as required under NEPA that fully evaluates the impacts of shipping and storing one metric ton of plutonium (the so-called proposed action), and DOE failed to evaluate the cumulative impacts of additional future plutonium shipments to Nevada. Specifically, DOE failed to evaluate alternatives to shipping one metric ton (about 2,200 pounds) of plutonium by January 2020, to Nevada for storage at the Device Assembly Facility. DOE failed to assure Nevada that the plutonium would be removed by a date certain. And DOE failed to address Nevada concerns that an additional amount of plutonium (6 to 34 metric tons or more) might be shipped to NNSS.

Moreover, the Nevada complaint charges that DOE’s Supplement Analysis fails to fully evaluate transportation impacts and risks, particularly regarding shipping routes in Southern Nevada that have been affected by new developments not addressed in previous DOE environmental impact statements, and that DOE has not evaluated how these plutonium shipments could specifically impact the Las Vegas metropolitan area.