Nevada lawmakers meet with NNSA chief, discuss SRS-sourced plutonium shipments

February 2, 2019

Nevada lawmakers met with top National Nuclear Security Administration officials Thursday night, one day after it was revealed a half-metric-ton of weapons-usable plutonium was brought into the state for longterm staging.

U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford, both Democrats, met with NNSA chief Lisa Gordon-Hagerty – the semiautonomous agency’s No. 1 – and NNSA General Counsel Bruce Diamond, according to a lengthy statement issued by the senator’s office.

Cortez Masto grilled Gordon-Hagerty and Diamond, according to the statement, on many topics: what route was taken when the plutonium was brought to the Nevada National Security Site and when the plutonium would leave the state, among other things.

Cortez Masto said she put NNSA representatives “on notice.”

It was Diamond who, in a Jan. 30 federal court declaration, announced a half-metric-ton of weapons-grade plutonium had been covertly relocated to NNSS. The relocation campaign was handled before November 2018, Diamond said.

NNSS, no stranger to nuclear-related work, is an approximate two-hour drive northwest from Las Vegas.

The plutonium was moved to NNSS last year to satisfy – at least partially – a federal court order.

On Dec. 20, 2017, U.S. District Court Judge J. Michelle Childs ordered the U.S. Department of Energy to remove no less than 1 metric ton of weapons-grade plutonium from the Savannah River Site and South Carolina more broadly. The DOE, Childs mandated, had until 2020 to do so.

The half-metric-ton of plutonium is expected to be taken from NNSS and sent to New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Laboratory within seven or eight years, according to a Jan. 25 document filed by the federal government. At Los Alamos, the material will be used for pit production – for “maintenance of the U.S. weapons stockpile,” the DOE said Thursday.

On Friday, Cortez Masto and U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nevada, together sent a lengthy letter to U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry demanding answers and expressing “continued outrage.” Gordon-Hagerty was sent a copy.

“We are dismayed by the disregard previously given to the concerns expressed by our state,” the senators wrote.

Horsford represents Nevada’s 4th Congressional District.

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