The Energy Department is sticking to its guns in defending its nuclear waste transfers following a surprise revelation last month that angered most of the lawmakers and state officials in the destination state of Nevada.
It’s the latest wrinkle in a decades-old fight over the broader question of whether the nation should embrace more nuclear energy and bury the toxic waste in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain.
In late January, department’s National Nuclear Security Administration published a Notice of Information revealing it was following a court order and transferring a half-ton shipment of weapons-grade plutonium from South Carolina to Energy’s Nevada National Security Site.
All but one member of the Nevada congressional delegation fired off angry statements accusing the department of ignoring transparency practices following months of staff briefings on the issue.
“We write to you today to express our continued outrage at your department’s breach of trust enacted by your department with the State of Nevada,” wrote Nevada’s two Democratic Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen.
The senators demanded an array of internal Energy Department documents and said they opposed “the storage of plutonium currently in our state, the potential shipment of plutonium to be stored in our state at a future date, and the storage of high-level nuclear waste and spent nuclear fuel.”
Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nev., called the move “deceptive and dangerous. Nevada officials were deceived by sham ‘negotiations’ while the safety of millions was jeopardized, as was the environment and economy of dozens of states. Nevada is not the nation’s nuclear dumping ground. Period.”
She backed subsequent efforts by Nevada’s Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak to reverse the plan.
Rep. Steve Horsford, D-Nev., added, “Our state is not a dumping ground for the nation’s hazardous waste, and we have no intention of letting it become one.”
Titus, a political scientist who has written a book on atomic power, plans to “find a way forward as a united front,” a senior staffer to the delegation told Government Executive on Thursday.
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