KINGMAN – The U.S. Department of Energy has shipped one-half metric ton of weapons-grade plutonium from South Carolina to the Nevada National Security Site, located 70 miles north of Las Vegas. On the way, it passed through Kingman.
Even though the state of Nevada filed a request for an injunction to block the move in November, the government disclosed it had already shipped the radioactive material to the site. It is not clear when the transfer occurred, but the information was released Jan. 30.
“I am beyond outraged by this completely unacceptable deception from the U.S. Department of Energy,” said Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak in an official statement. “They lied to the State of Nevada, misled a federal court, and jeopardized the safety of Nevada’s families and environment.”
The biggest concern was the safety of residents in Las Vegas during the shipment. The government must have considered it dangerous enough that it promised the transfer would avoid heavily populated areas of Las Vegas. According to The Reno Gazette Journal, “They fear an accident could permanently harm an area that boasts 2.2 million residents and more than 40 million tourists a year.”
The City of Kingman, through which plutonium was trucked, was also completely unaware of the secret transfer. The government didn’t notify anyone, not the City, not the local Department of Public Safety, and not the fire department.
“The best example is the Chernobyl disaster,” said one Kingman resident who works in the industry and considers such transfers a risk to the general public safety. He is referring to the 1986 nuclear accident in the Soviet Union, which remains as an exclusion zone today. “People had to abandon the city,” he said. “No one could get near.”
However, Chief of Kingman Police Robert DeVries is not surprised. He can’t check if the city was notified without the actual date of the transfer, he said. At the same time, he said these types of transfers are kept in secret precisely because of the public safety.
“We haven’t seen a notification like that for a while,” said Assistant Fire Chief Keith Eaton from the Kingman Fire Department. “We were not unware of any shipment of this type.”
Nevada wants the Trump administration to abandon plans to ship a full metric ton of plutonium to Nevada from South Carolina, where a federal judge previously issued an order that the plutonium be removed from a Savannah River site by January 2020.