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Nevada tribes join opposition to plutonium shipments

Thirteen Nevada Indian tribes have joined the chorus of opposition to secret plutonium shipments to the state last year.

Tribal leaders sent letters to President Donald Trump and Energy Secretary Rick Perry objecting to the transfer of the radioactive material to the Nevada National Security Site, 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

The tribal chairmen said the government should have consulted with the tribes before trucking weapons-grade plutonium past their reservations and storing it within the ancestral homelands of the Western Shoshone people.

“As a Southern Nevada tribe, our reservations — one in downtown Las Vegas and another in the northwestern part of the Las Vegas Valley — are in direct proximity to the transportation routes that may have been utilized for this shipment to the Nevada National Security Site,” wrote Las Vegas Paiute Chairman Chris Spotted Eagle in a letter to Perry. “Were an incident to occur during such transport, our tribal citizens would be exposed to potentially harmful impacts.”

“By sending and storing a half ton of radioactive plutonium to the State of Nevada without consultation, the United States government failed in its duty to protect Indian tribal resources,” wrote Chairman Rupert Steele of the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation, which takes in parts of eastern Nevada and western Utah. “Furthermore, by taking such a reckless and careless action, the United States government completely ignored its legal and moral responsibilities under the United States Constitution to consult with Indian tribes on actions with Indian tribal implications.”

The administration also received letters from the chairmen of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe, Duckwater Shoshone Tribe, Walker River Paiute Tribe, Fort McDermitt Paiute Shoshone Tribe, Elko Band Council, Ely Shoshone Tribe, Yerington Paiute Tribe, Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of the Duck Valley Indian Reservation, Summit Lake Paiute Tribe and Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.

In August, the Energy Department notified Nevada officials of plans to ship half a metric ton of weapons-grade plutonium to the security site from South Carolina. The state filed for an injunction in November to block the shipment, but weeks after the case was argued in federal court, the Energy Department disclosed that it already had sent the plutonium into the state sometime before the court filing.

Gov. Steve Sisolak has requested a meeting with Trump to discuss the shipment and the administration’s plans for the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site. The White House has yet to acknowledge or respond to Sisolak’s Feb. 27 request.

Several tribal leaders urged Trump and Perry to sit down with the governor to discuss the storage of radioactive material in Nevada.

Contact Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350. Follow @RefriedBrean on Twitter.

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