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Cortez Masto, Rosen urge Perry to rid test site of plutonium

WASHINGTON — Energy Secretary Rick Perry led a tour Friday at the Nevada National Security Site to reassure the state’s two U.S. senators that a half metric ton of weapons-grade plutonium secretly shipped to the location is being securely and safely stored.

Nevada officials were outraged in January when they learned the plutonium had been shipped into the state before a lawsuit could be filed to stop the transfer of the material because of concerns about exposure risks to residents and the environment.

And the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board issued a letter to Perry in March that outlined concerns of seismic activity and the need for updated evaluation and upgrades at the Device Assembly Facility, where the plutonium is stored.

Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen did not make themselves available for interviews following the tour but said in a joint statement that Perry must live up to a deal he made with Cortez Masto to remove the plutonium.

“We also made clear that we expected the Department of Energy to remove that plutonium starting in 2021 in keeping with Secretary Perry’s written agreement,” the statement reads. “While we both appreciate Secretary Perry’s engagement today, we strongly reiterated that we would be ensuring that he and his department honor their agreement to remove the weapons-grade plutonium from Nevada.”

Cortez Masto reached that agreement with Perry for the removal of the plutonium as well as a pledge that no future shipments from the Savannah River Site in South Carolina would come to Nevada. In exchange, she dropped a hold on Trump administration nominees for the Department of Energy up for confirmation in the Senate, and agreed to tour the Device Assembly Facility at the security site located 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7390. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

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