AP

Court rules for US in fight over Nevada plutonium shipment

Aug 14, 2019, 6:10 AM
FILE - In this May 10, 2017, file photo provided by the Los Alamos National Laboratory, U.S. Secret...
FILE - In this May 10, 2017, file photo provided by the Los Alamos National Laboratory, U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, second from left, accompanied by Laboratory Director Charlie McMillan, second from right, learns about capabilities at the Los Alamos Laboratory Plutonium Facility, from Jeff Yarbrough, right, Los Alamos Associate Director for Plutonium Science and Manufacturing, in Los Alamos. A federal appeals court has ruled against Nevada in a legal battle over the U.S. government's secret shipment of weapons-grade plutonium to a site near Las Vegas. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019, denied the state's appeal after a judge refused to block any future shipments to Nevada. The court in San Francisco says the matter is moot because the Energy Department already sent the radioactive material and has promised that no more will be hauled there. (Los Alamos National Laboratory via AP, File)
(Los Alamos National Laboratory via AP, File)

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled against Nevada in a battle with the U.S. government over its secret shipment of weapons-grade plutonium to a site near Las Vegas but the state’s attorney general says the fight isn’t over yet.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the state’s appeal after a judge refused to block any future shipments to Nevada. The court in San Francisco said the matter is moot because the Energy Department already sent the radioactive material and has promised that no more will be hauled there.

“The remedy Nevada sought — stopping the government from shipping plutonium from South Carolina to Nevada under the proposed action — is no longer available,” the court wrote.

Nevada also wanted the court to order the government to remove the plutonium it shipped last year but didn’t reveal had arrived there until January.

The 9th Circuit said that issue also is moot because the state failed to include that request in its original motion seeking to block future shipments.

“Because the government completed the shipment, any harm caused by the shipment cannot be ‘undone’ by granting the motion Nevada actually filed,” the ruling said.

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford said late Tuesday he’ll continue to press the state’s case in court but didn’t provide any immediate details of its next legal move.

“The Department of Energy’s deceitful behavior in handling these shipments demonstrates my office’s need to continue aggressively litigating to hold the Department of Energy to its promises,” Ford said in a statement.

“The health and safety of all Nevadans is of paramount importance to my office, and our dedicated team will continue to pursue all options for ensuring that no further unlawful plutonium shipments reach this state,” he said.

Among other options, Nevada could now request a hearing before the full 9th Circuit or seek a new court order to remove the plutonium that’s already been shipped.

The Energy Department didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment on Tuesday.

Nevada sued in federal court in Reno last November, accusing the agency of illegally deciding it could transport the material without completing a full environmental review of potential health and safety dangers.

Although Nevada wasn’t aware at the time, the government had already shipped a half metric ton of plutonium from South Carolina to the Nevada National Security Site, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northwest of Las Vegas. That site is separate from but close to the Yucca Mountain site in the Mojave Desert where the Trump administration wants to build a high-level radioactive waste repository.

Nevada says the Trump administration abused “top secret” classifications to meet a court order to remove a ton of weapons-grade plutonium from the Savannah River site in South Carolina by Jan. 1, 2020.

While Nevada’s appeal was pending, Energy Secretary Rick Perry sent a letter to Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, a Nevada Democrat, pledging to expedite removal of the plutonium already sent to Nevada — beginning in 2021 — and promising no more will be sent there.

He’s visited the site twice in recent months and provided a classified briefing to Gov. Steve Sisolak to try to allay the state’s concerns.

The radioactive material isn’t intended to be unpacked in Nevada, only temporarily stored before it is moved again, most likely to New Mexico or Texas for reprocessing for use in building nuclear weapons.

The Energy Department has said it expects to move the plutonium from Nevada to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico “or another facility” by the “2026-2027 timeframe.”

Nevada’s lawyers argued that Energy Department couldn’t be trusted because of past misrepresentations about the covert shipment. The state said U.S. officials selectively declassified information as it suited their needs.

The Energy Department insists the plutonium was properly classified for security.

It disclosed the material was in Nevada on Jan. 30, the same day Judge Miranda Du in Reno denied a state request to temporarily halt all shipments. She also ruled that the matter was moot.

Nevada argued in its appeal to the 9th Circuit that the case wasn’t moot partly because the government had “voluntarily” ceased the shipments and could resume them at any time.

But the court ruled that “the alleged injury was no longer redressable.”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team. here.

Today’s Top Stories

AP

a man is pictured playing call of duty...
The Associated Press

FTC sues to block Microsoft-Activision Blizzard $69B merger

The FTC’s complaint points to Microsoft’s previous game acquisitions where Microsoft made some game titles exclusive despite assuring it wouldn't.
2 days ago
Respect for Marriage Act...
MARY CLARE JALONICK Associated Press

Bill protecting same-sex, interracial unions passes House

President Joe Biden is expected to promptly sign the measure, which requires all states to recognize same-sex marriages, a relief for many.
2 days ago
a small boy recieves a COVID-19 vaccine in China...
JOE McDONALD Associated Press

China eases anti-COVID measures following protests

Experts warn, however, that restrictions can’t be lifted completely until at least mid-2023 because millions of elderly people still must be vaccinated.
3 days ago
A memorial is pictured near the scene of the Colorado shooting at Club Q...
COLLEEN SLEVIN Associated Press

Colorado gay club shooting suspect charged with hate crimes

Investigators say Anderson Lee Aldrich entered Club Q, a sanctuary for the LGBTQ community in this mostly conservative city, just before midnight on Nov. 19.
4 days ago
DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 25: A giant flag of IR Iran on the pitch prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2...
ALI ABDUL-HASSAN and ABBY SEWELL Associated Press

US-Iran match reflects a regional rivalry for many Arab fans

The U.S. team’s must-win World Cup match against Iran will be closely watched across the Middle East, where the two nations have been engaged in a cold war for over four decades and where many blame one or both for the region’s woes.
11 days ago
Irene Cara in 'Fame' (Photo courtesy of Mgm/Kobal, Shutterstock)...
MARK KENNEDY, AP Entertainment Writer

‘Fame’ and ‘Flashdance’ singer-actor Irene Cara dies at 63

singer-actress Irene Cara, who starred and sang the title cut from the 1980 hit movie “Fame” and then belted out the era-defining hit “Flashdance ... What a Feeling” from 1983's “Flashdance,” has died. She was 63.
13 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 game day snacks for the whole family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Court rules for US in fight over Nevada plutonium shipment