Updated June 26, 2020 - 4:23 pm
CARSON CITY — The federal government will begin removing a metric half-ton of weapons-grade plutonium that was secretly shipped to the state starting next year as part of a settlement agreement between Nevada and the U.S. Department of Energy.
Under the settlement, which was agreed to Friday, the nuclear material must be completely removed from the Nevada National Security Site by the end of 2026 and the Energy Department cannot send any more materials from the Savannah River Site in South Carolina — where the material originated — to Nevada without giving the state notice of its intent.
The agreement codifies a commitment that Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto got last year from then-Energy Secretary Rick Perry to remove the plutonium under the same time frame.
“I’m pleased that the Department of Energy and the State of Nevada have reached a settlement to remove the weapons-grade plutonium that was secretly shipped to Nevada and to prevent any future shipments from South Carolina,” Cortez Masto said in a statement included in a release from the Nevada attorney general’s office.
A federal judge in South Carolina last year ordered the Energy Department to remove one metric ton of weapons-grade plutonium from the Savannah River Site. A half-ton was shipped to Nevada last fall, and the Energy Department announced in August that another half-ton had been shipped to either Texas or New Mexico.
The half-ton that was shipped to the Nevada security site came as the state was preparing a federal court filing seeking an injunction to stop the shipment. The Energy Department is required to move an additional five metric tons out of South Carolina in future years.
Attorney General Aaron Ford said the resolution “marks a significant commitment,” from the Energy Department, but that the state will be prepared if the federal government changes course.
“While I’m hopeful that this agreement is the basis for a stronger and more collaborative relationship with the Department of Energy, my office stands ready to protect the interest of Nevadans,” Ford said in a statement. “I thank (Energy) Secretary (Dan) Brouillette for his commitment to Nevadans and look forward to seeing the safe removal of the plutonium begin next year.”