Morning Briefing - February 07, 2019
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Nuclear Security & Deterrence
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February 07, 2019

Nevada Gov. Joins Letter-Writing Campaign on DOE Plutonium Shipment

By ExchangeMonitor

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) on Wednesday became the latest outraged politician to demand answers about the Department of Energy’s secretive shipment of plutonium to the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) in November.

In a heated letter dated Feb. 6, Sisolak told Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty that shipping half a metric ton of plutonium to the NNSS Device Assembly Building from the Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C., “destroyed any semblance of trust DOE and NNSA may have developed with representatives of this State.”

Sisolak demanded “full and complete answers” by Feb. 19 to 13 questions. Among other things, the governor wants to know: how much plutonium the NNSA can store at the Device Assembly Facility; the form in which the plutonium is stored — the agency has said only that this particular tranche is not in the form of warhead cores called pits; and whether the NNSA plans to send any more plutonium to NNSS from South Carolina.

In December 2017, a federal judge in South Carolina ordered the NNSA to move a metric ton of plutonium out of South Carolina after the agency failed to meet a legal obligation to turn the material into commercial reactor fuel using the Savannah River Site’s now-canceled Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility.

Under the same federal law cited in that 2017 order, the NNSA must remove multiple metric tons of plutonium from South Carolina by Jan. 1, 2022. The DOE branch now stores the material at Savannah River Site’s K-Area.

On Friday, Sens. Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto (both D-Nev.) sent a letter to Perry requesting classified and unclassified briefings about the plutonium shipment.

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