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S.C. again asks Nevada court to grant intervention in SRS-tied lawsuit

January 13, 2019

The state of South Carolina is still fighting to intervene in a lawsuit concerning the shipment of weapons-grade plutonium from the Savannah River Site to the Nevada National Security Site.

South Carolina’s legal team on Friday again asked a Nevada court to grant the state intervenor status, to recognize the state as a defendant in the matter alongside the U.S. Department of Energy, and to move the legal venue to the East Coast.

The state of Nevada – opposing the prospective Nevada-bound plutonium shipments as well as South Carolina intervention – claims South Carolina’s stake is already fairly represented by the DOE, among others. South Carolina’s legal team strongly disagrees.

“In reply, South Carolina states that it has a very real, significant, and direct interest in this court’s disposition of the issues before it, and the defendants in this matter are neither willing nor capable of protecting that interest,” a Jan. 11 South Carolina court filing reads.

“While South Carolina and the defendants may share the same ultimate objective – to affirm the defendants’ decision to transfer the plutonium to Nevada – they have distinct reasons for doing so,” the same filing reads.

The DOE wants to satisfy an administrative process, but South Carolina wants to protect its legal and sovereign interests, according to South Carolina’s reply. What’s being argued, essentially, is a difference in scope: national versus state.

“As provided above and in South Carolina’s prior pleadings, the state of South Carolina’s right to intervene in this matter is beyond dispute,” the Jan. 11 filing reads.

The DOE is required by court order to remove at least 1 metric ton of weapons-grade plutonium from South Carolina before the start of 2020.

Relocating the plutonium to either NNSS or the Pantex Plant in Texas is the best way to abide by that order, according to a National Nuclear Security Administration environmental study published over the summer. The plutonium will eventually be reintroduced into the nuclear weapons stockpile, according to the same study.

The NNSA is a semiautonomous DOE agency in charge of the nation’s nuclear complex and related nonproliferation.

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