S.C. files emergency motion to intervene in Nevada’s plutonium-related lawsuit

January 5, 2019

The state of South Carolina wants to intervene in a Savannah River Site-related lawsuit, which the state of Nevada has levied against the U.S. Department of Energy.

South Carolina, led by Attorney General Alan Wilson and backed by a cluster of attorneys, is asking to be recognized as a defendant in the matter, according to an emergency motion filed Thursday. The intervention, if granted, would put the DOE and South Carolina on the same side, essentially.

“South Carolina has a sovereign interest in protecting its territory and its citizens’ health and well-being, and in preventing the potential hazards that arise by further prolonging the federal defendants’ storage of defense-grade plutonium at the SRS,” the 14-page emergency motion reads.

The state is also requesting a change of venue: away from Nevada to South Carolina, according to court documents.

The requested intervention is the product of an obvious conflict between what a district court has ordered the DOE to do in South Carolina and what Nevada wants and, furthermore, wants to stop.

“In short, Nevada’s action presents a very real possibility of establishing a cascading conflict between two district courts of equal rank in the federal system,” a supplemental document filed by the South Carolina team reads.

On Dec. 20, 2017, following a protracted legal battle, U.S. District Court Judge J. Michelle Childs ordered the DOE to remove no less than 1 metric ton of weapons-grade plutonium from South Carolina — SRS — by 2020 at the latest.

Initially, the DOE said that task was near impossible. But shipping the plutonium to the Nevada National Security Site — the Pantex Plant in Texas is also a candidate for receipt — could change that, according to a National Nuclear Security Administration assessment dated July 2018.

Later that year, Nevada sued the DOE and its NNSA to prevent the weapons-grade plutonium from reaching NNSS and being staged there until it’s eventually moved to Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Nevada, led by Attorney General Adam Laxalt, argued environmental regulations were violated, and, as a result, demanded a court put a stop to the planned plutonium transportation.

The halt Nevada is seeking would seriously interfere with what South Carolina has rightfully won, South Carolina’s legal team is now arguing.

“South Carolina cannot be excluded from this controversy without impairing its ability to protect its significant interests,” the emergency motion reads.

More directly, the preliminary injunction if enacted would bring “direct, immediate, and harmful effects” upon South Carolina, per the motion.

Responses are due Jan. 9; other replies are due two days later, according to an order made Friday.

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