Officials are outraged after Trump administration secretly ships 'weapons-grade plutonium' to an unwitting state

Nevada officials fumed Wednesday after the Trump administration revealed in a court filing that it has secretly shipped radioactive plutonium to the state despite local objections, the Nevada Independent reported.

The National Nuclear Security Administration, a part of the Department of Energy, sent half a metric ton of weapons-grade plutonium to the state, according to the report. It had previously been stored in South Carolina, but a federal court ordered it to be moved.

Not realizing that the plutonium had already been shipped before November 2018, the state sued the administration on Nov. 30. The federal court had required the plutonium be removed from South Carolina by Jan. 1, 2020, reported Dan Leone.

Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak was infuriated by the revelation.

“The Department led the State of Nevada to believe that they were engaging in good-faith negotiations with us regarding a potential shipment of weapons-grade plutonium, only to reveal that those negotiations were a sham all along,” he said in a statement.  “They lied to the State of Nevada, misled a federal court, and jeopardized the safety of Nevada’s families and environment.”

Other Nevada officials were also outraged.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) said she will be holding the Trump administration to account and will "be shining a bright light on this, as well as any high-level effort to bring nuclear waste into our state by reviving Yucca Mountain." Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) called it “deceptive and dangerous."

In a statement to AlterNet, the NNSA confirmed that the shipment of half a metric ton of plutonium had been completed to Nevada. It suggested that such details of these transactions are typically kept secret for security reasons.

"In order to provide security for its shipments of these kinds of materials DOE normally will not release information about the status of the shipment(s) until sometime after the shipping 'campaign' is concluded," the statement said.

It did not address whether keeping local officials out of the loop was consistent with department policy.

Update: This story has been revised to include the DOE statement.


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