Morning Briefing - February 06, 2019
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February 06, 2019

Nevada Appeals Judge’s Refusal to Block Already-Completed Plutonium Shipment

By ExchangeMonitor

Nevada on Monday appealed a federal judge’s refusal to block a shipment of plutonium into the state, even though the Department of Energy material in question reached its destination late last year.

The state filed notice of its appeal in the U.S. District Court for Nevada, which last week denied Nevada a preliminary injunction it requested Nov. 30 as part of a broader lawsuit aimed at stopping DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) from sending weapon-usable plutonium to the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) from the Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C.

The NNSA last week admitted to the court that it had moved the plutonium to NNSS, about 100 miles from Las Vegas, “before November 2018.” However, that was not why U.S. District Court Judge Miranda Du, in Reno, denied Nevada’s request for a preliminary injunction. In a Jan. 30 order, Du said Nevada’s injunction motion failed on legal grounds because it did not demonstrate the state would be irreparably harmed by the shipment.

Nevada refused to accept the ruling and will take the matter to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Nevada’s opening brief for the appeals court is due March 4, according to an order posted in the Ninth Circuit, which docketed the case late Tuesday. 

The NNSA has to move 1 metric ton of plutonium out of South Carolina by Jan. 1, 2020, because of a December 2017 court order handed down in a lawsuit brought by that state’s attorney general. The plutonium at issue, once designated as surplus to defense needs, was meant to be turned into commercial reactor fuel by the now-canceled Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at Savannah River.

In May, the NNSA redesignated 1 metric ton of the plutonium at Savannah River as for defense-production use. In August, it publicly announced plans to move the material out of the state and to the Los Alamos National Laboratory by way of NNSS and the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas.