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Nevada staunchly opposes S.C. request to intervene in plutonium lawsuit

January 11, 2019

The state of Nevada does not want the state of South Carolina to intervene in a Savannah River Site-related lawsuit it has filed against the U.S. Department of Energy.

Nevada, led by newly sworn in Attorney General Aaron Ford, believes South Carolina has mischaracterized the case at hand and, beyond anything else, has its interests already represented by the DOE, a named defendant.

“Ultimately, South Carolina has failed to provide sufficient basis for this court to allow intervention in this case,” Nevada’s Jan. 9 court filing reads.

The matter at hand – the reason for Nevada’s legal actions, which were filed late last year – involves planned shipments of weapons-grade plutonium from SRS to the Nevada National Security Site, which is relatively close to Las Vegas.

The DOE, namely its semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration, needs to remove the plutonium from SRS to satisfy a court order made in December 2017. That order, issued by U.S. District Court Judge J. Michelle Childs, mandated the DOE remove at least 1 metric ton of defense plutonium from South Carolina by 2020 at the latest.

Nevada sued the DOE to prevent the plutonium from being transported to and staged at NNSS, a defense-centric hub. The state claimed the DOE violated environmental regulations in its long term decision making.

On Jan. 3, South Carolina filed an emergency motion asking the court to recognize the state as a defendant. South Carolina’s legal team, led by Attorney General Alan Wilson, argued no one else was properly representing the state’s stakes.

Nevada is now arguing that’s not true because both the DOE and South Carolina want the same thing: plutonium removal.

“Most importantly, South Carolina has failed to identify any meaningful way in which its ultimate objective in this case differs from that of the present defendants,” the Jan. 9 filing reads.

Nevada is also arguing South Carolina’s interests and rights are not in jeopardy because the plutonium – slated for eventual nuclear weapons integration – could be sent to the Pantex Plant in Texas, another path forward the NNSA has laid out in detail.

“To the contrary, Nevada’s motion for preliminary injunction requests only that this court enjoin defendants from shipping the plutonium from South Carolina to Nevada,” the filing reads.

South Carolina has argued that the injunction, if granted, would render “direct, immediate, and harmful effects” on the Palmetto State and its people.

As of Thursday evening, no ruling on South Carolina’s requested intervention had been made.

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