Is Deal To Remove Nuke Material To Be Trusted?


(AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton,File)

This Nov. 20, 2013 file photo, seen through thick protective glass, shows the area where workers sand-blast the large stainless steel tanks used in the vitrification process to rid them of contaminants at the Defense Waste Processing Facility at the Savannah River Site near Aiken, S.C. South Carolina says Nevada's demand for the U.S. government to remove weapons-grade plutonium that was secretly trucked between the two states last year contradicts its claim that moving the radioactive material is dangerous.

Earlier this year, Nevada learned the Department of Energy had secretly shipped weapons-grade plutonium to a facility within the Nevada National Security Site.

A federal report also says the federal government has not addressed the issue of increased seismic activity in the area. And another report says the Device Assembly Facility, where the material is stored, has “high explosives co-located with special nuclear material.”

All of it infuriated Nevada members of Congress and state lawmakers.

Last month, U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., said she made an agreement with DOE Secretary Rick Perry to start removing the nuclear material in two years.

But how can she be sure it will happen?

Cortez Masto told KNPR's State of Nevada she has the agreement with the DOE in writing.

“In there, there is a commitment from the Department of Energy that they would not ship any more plutonium from the South Carolina site into Nevada and the plutonium that is currently in Nevada, they would start removing it beginning in the year 2021,” she said.

Cortez Masto said that like many Nevadans, she was outraged by the DOE's decision to ship plutonium to the state secretly.

“As a United States senator, I was going to use every tool, procedure I had to get a commitment from them," she said.

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One of the tools she had was to object to any nominees for high-level positions inside the Department of Energy. When she did that, she got a call from Secretary Perry.

Perry agreed to tour the facility with Cortez Masto and Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev. 

Cortez Masto said the tour of the facility was "informative and productive."

“I will tell you after everything we saw I came away feeling that the plutonium, where it is right now, there is a robust security around," she said, "It is redundant. I do not have concerns while it is temporarily there that it is a safety risk.”

However, Cortez Masto said it is a not a permanent storage area and it is not the job of the site to store weapons-grade plutonium permanently -- which is why part of the agreement includes regular briefings about the plan to move the plutonium out of Nevada.

“We made clear that we want this commitment and we’re going to be continuing to watch and follow and want these regular briefings from the Department of Energy," she added.




Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev.

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