Nevada tried to tell the federal government not to ship weapons-grade nuclear material across the state, but the Trump administration did it anyway, and secretly.
In December of last year, the state of Nevada sued the Trump administration to try and stop it from shipping weapons-grade plutonium into the state.
Earlier in January, a judge refused to immediately stop the shipment, saying she wouldn't rule until February. But she went on to say that she hoped the government wouldn't ship any plutonium while they waited for her ruling.
They didn't wait. They shipped it anyway — in secret, and against Nevada's wishes. In fact, they shipped it before the litigation ever began.
It's not clear when, if ever, Nevada would have known that the government was shipping plutonium across the state, but the litigation seems to have forced the administration's hand.
So, they admitted in a court filing that they had completed the shipment of approximately one-half ton of plutonium to the Nevada National Security Site, which is only about 90 miles from Las Vegas.
Under Obama, a plan to store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain was essentially halted, but the Trump administration revived the plan. Throughout, however, Nevada officials have been very clear they don't want nuclear material passing through their state or stored in their state.
They're worried there's a risk of exposure, particularly to water sources. They were worried that the Department of Energy (DOE) hadn't adequately considered the environmental impacts. They were afraid that any path for the plutonium would go right through Las Vegas.
And Nevada said no, again and again. In May 2018, when the DOE announced the nuclear material would be moved from South Carolina to Nevada, then-Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) and Nevada members of Congress denounced the move. Then they tried to negotiate with the DOE, to no avail. Then, the December lawsuit. None of it mattered.
After ignoring Nevada's wishes and secretly shipping nuclear material across the state, the DOE now has the nerve to say that Nevada's lawsuit is moot. Why? Because the lawsuit was about blocking the shipment of the nuclear material, but the government already secretly shipped the plutonium, so there's no reason for a lawsuit about it to continue.
Nevada officials, rightly, rejected this nonsense. They point out that the state is, more than ever, in need of an injunction to stop shipments because the government's actions have made them suspicious that more plutonium shipments will be coming to Nevada.
Given that the government already let Nevada believe that they were negotiating in good faith while secretly shipping nuclear material anyway, there is no reason for Nevada to trust the federal government here.
Can anyone be surprised that this administration would ignore the will of a state, potentially exposing its residents to danger when it suited them to do so?
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.