Nevada ended a two-year legal battle Friday with the U.S. Energy Department over the secret shipment of weapons grade plutonium to a site near Las Vegas.
Nevada said it would drop its lawsuit after the federal government agreed to remove the radioactive material already trucked there and abandon any future plans to send more.
The settlement agreement was disclosed in court papers filed in U.S. District Court in Reno and signed by Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford and lawyers for the U.S. Justice Department.
Gov. Steve Sisolak said in a statement it was a significant victory in the effort to “keep weapons grade material out of our state.”
Nevada said the shipment of one-half metric ton (600 pounds) of the plutonium over its objections from the Savannah River Site in South Carolina in 2018 amounted to a “secret plutonium smuggling operation.” The U.S. government argued secrecy was necessitated by national security concerns.
Details of the settlement were not disclosed in the court filing. But the statement released by Sisolak and Ford said the Energy Department will begin removing the plutonium next year and complete removal no later than Dec. 31, 2026.
Most importantly, they said, the agreement states that none of the more than 10 metric tons (22,000 pounds) of additional surplus plutonium the Energy Department may be forced to remove from South Carolina in the next 18 months will be sent to Nevada.
The Energy Department agreed to notify the state if those plans change within the next 30 days so the state can resume its previous legal challenge, the statement said.
“While I’m hopeful this agreement is the basis for a stronger and more collaborative relationship with the Department of Energy, my office stands ready to protect the interests of Nevadans,” Ford said.
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