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Weapons-grade plutonium secretly sent to Nevada removed

Nuclear
AP Photo/Keith Ridler, File
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FILE - Nuclear waste is stored in underground containers at the Idaho National Laboratory near Idaho Falls, Idaho, on May 11, 2015. The federal government is acknowledging it has shipped mixed radioactive waste from a nuclear-era cleanup site in Idaho to Nevada for disposal.

Weapons-grade plutonium that secretly was sent to Nevada over objections from the state has been removed ahead of schedule, federal officials said.

U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto said in a statement that she was notified by the National Nuclear Security Administration late Friday that the plutonium had been removed. The work that started last year had been expected to wrap up by the end of 2026.

The U.S. Energy Department under former President Donald Trump had planned to ship a full metric ton of plutonium to Nevada from South Carolina, where a federal judge ordered the material be removed from a Savannah River site.

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Nevada had argued in a lawsuit that the clandestine shipment of half a metric ton of plutonium to the vast Nevada National Security Site — an area larger than the state of Rhode Island — in 2018 amounted to a “secret plutonium smuggling operation.” The U.S. government argued it kept the shipment secret because of national security concerns.

The Nevada site was used to conduct nuclear weapons testing from 1945 to 1992.

The legal battle ended in mid-2020 after the federal government agreed to remove the highly radioactive material already trucked to Nevada and abandon any future plans to send more.

The material now is held at a site in New Mexico, a congressional aide told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.