September 19, 2022

ICYMI: Sen. Cortez Masto Announces Completion of Agreement She Secured to Remove Plutonium Secretly Shipped to Nevada

In Case You Missed It, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) announced on Friday the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) completed the removal of all weapons-grade plutonium that was secretly shipped to Nevada under the Trump administration. In 2019, Senator Cortez Masto negotiated a deal with the DOE to remove this from the state starting in 2021. Following continued advocacy from the Senator, the NNSA completed the removal four years ahead of schedule.

Associated Press: Weapons-grade plutonium secretly sent to Nevada removed

Weapons-grade plutonium that secretly was sent to Nevada over objections from the state has been removed ahead of schedule, federal officials said.

U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto said in a statement that she was notified by the National Nuclear Security Administration late Friday that the plutonium had been removed. The work that started last year had been expected to wrap up by the end of 2026.

The U.S. Energy Department under former President Donald Trump had planned to ship a full metric ton (2,204 pounds) of plutonium to Nevada from South Carolina, where a federal judge ordered the material be removed from a Savannah River site.

Nevada had argued in a lawsuit that the clandestine shipment of half a metric ton (1,100 pounds) of plutonium to the vast Nevada National Security Site — an area larger than the state of Rhode Island — in 2018 amounted to a “secret plutonium smuggling operation.” The U.S. government argued it kept the shipment secret because of national security concerns.

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The legal battle ended in mid-2020 after the federal government agreed to remove the highly radioactive material already trucked to Nevada and abandon any future plans to send more.

The material now is held at a site in New Mexico, a congressional aide told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Las Vegas Review-Journal: Plutonium secretly shipped to Nevada removed sooner than expected

A half-metric ton of weapons-grade plutonium secretly shipped into Nevada has been removed four years early under federal court order and an agreement reached by U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and former Energy Secretary Rick Perry, officials said Friday.

Cortez Masto, D-Nev., first announced the removal of the plutonium, stored at the Nevada National Security Site north of Las Vegas.

She was notified by the National Nuclear Security Administration late Friday.

National Nuclear Security Administrator Jill Hruby told Cortez Masto by telephone about the completion of the removal, according to the senator’s office.

Attempts to contact the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration for comment were not immediately returned.

The NNSA shipped the plutonium from the Savannah River Site in South Carolina to Nevada in 2019 under federal court order.

Nevada officials, while notified it would happen, were incensed when efforts to stop the transfer through federal courts became moot after the Department of Energy disclosed the plutonium had already been shipped into the state.

“When I heard that the Trump administration secretly shipped weapons-grade plutonium to our state, I acted immediately to ensure it was removed,” Cortez Masto said in a statement.

Cortez Masto also secured in writing a pledge by Perry not to send any more plutonium from South Carolina to Nevada.

“I’m proud to announce the removal has been completed four years ahead of schedule,” Cortez Masto said.

A federal judge ordered the Department of Energy to remove weapons grade plutonium from the Savannah River Site in South Carolina after a facility to turn the radioactive material into fuel for nuclear power plants was terminated.

Some of the material was sent to the Nevada facility, and some to the Pantex Plant in Texas until pits to accommodate the material at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico were completed, according to NNSA.

The material from Nevada now has been shipped to Los Alamos, a congressional aide confirmed.

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                          The Nevada Independent: Plutonium Removed from Nevada            

Cortez Masto announced Friday that the Department of Energy (DOE) had completed its removal of half a metric ton of weapons-grade plutonium from the Nevada National Security Site.

The Nevada Democrat brokered a deal in April 2019 with former President Donald Trump’s energy secretary, Rick Perry, to remove the plutonium after the agency revealed in January 2019 that it secretly shipped the plutonium to the site sometime in 2018.

“When I heard that the Trump Administration secretly shipped weapons-grade plutonium to our state, I acted immediately to ensure it was removed,” Cortez Masto said, adding that all of the plutonium has been removed in accordance with the agreement. 

DOE’s decision to temporarily store plutonium in Nevada resulted from the agency’s failure to meet a deadline to complete construction on a South Carolina facility that is meant to repurpose excess plutonium into fuel for nuclear reactors. A federal judge in May ordered that one metric ton of plutonium be removed from the site by 2019.

KLAS: Weapons-grade plutonium removed from Nevada 4 years ahead of schedule

The Department of Energy has removed weapons-grade plutonium that was secretly shipped to Nevada during President Donald Trump’s term, according to a Friday news release. The matter was resolved four years ahead of schedule.

One-half metric ton of plutonium — just over 1,100 pounds — was sent to the Nevada National Security Site without informing Nevada officials. The site, formerly known as the Nevada Test Site, is about 90 miles north of Las Vegas on U.S. 95.

Following a lawsuit filed by Nevada Attorney General Aaron D. Ford, U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto worked out an agreement with then-Secretary Rick Perry to get the plutonium out by 2026.

Cortez Mast announced the completion of the removal in a news release on Friday, saying the National Nuclear Security Administration completed the removal early.

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Nevada battled for years to keep nuclear waste out of the state after Yucca Mountain was designated as a nuclear waste repository in 1987. The secret shipments of weapons-grade plutonium stoked fears that Yucca Mountain could be revived by federal officials.

KTVN: Senator Cortez Masto announces removal of weapons-grade plutonium from Nevada

Federal officials are claiming weapons-grade plutonium that was secretly sent to the state of Nevada, has been removed. 

Senator Catherine Cortez Masto released a statement saying she was notified that the plutonium had been removed by the National Nuclear Security Administration on Friday.

It wasn't expected to happen until the end of 2026. After a long legal battle, the lawsuit ended in 2020, when the federal government agreed to remove the radioactive material.

According to the Associated Press, the plutonium is now being held at a site in New Mexico.

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