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South Carolina wants to get shot of its plutonium, and Nevada doesn’t want it. But, Nevada’s happy to keep its high paying NNSA (National Nuclear Security) jobs, it seems. However, there appears to be no justifiable reason to have moved the plutonium, apart from a South Carolina court order. And, moving plutonium about is a national security, public health, and environmental hazard. It is curious that Trump mega-donor – Casino Magnate Sheldon Adelson would allow it to be parked in Nevada. Is there something for Israel in this deal? Or is he unaware? Where is the other 1/2 tonne? Has it been sent elsewhere?

Above is the monitored storage at Savannah River Site, which is vastly superior to burial at WIPP in New Mexico:

WIPP: 22 May 2014

NNSA confirmed that it was “actively engaged” in removing one metric ton of plutonium from South Carolina to Nevada, Texas, and New Mexico.


The transport route shown may or may not be the route used.


From Tom Clements/Savannah River Site Watch: http://www.srswatch.org:

Savannah River Site Watch For Immediate Release January 30, 2019
DOE Informs Nevada Court of Weapon-Grade Plutonium Shipment from DOE’s Savannah River Site to Nevada has taken Place; Unknown when Unjustified Shipment Occurred
Court Filing Linked Here http://www.srswatch.org/uploads/2/7/5/8/27584045/nnsa_filing_plutonium_shipment_done_jan_30_2019.pdf
Columbia, South Carolina – The U.S. Department of Energy has secretly shipped a large amount of weapon-grade plutonium from the Savannah River Site in South Carolina to Nevada.

The unnecessary, risky shipment of the plutonium involved its transfer from the K-Reactor storage facility at the Savannah River Site to “staging” at the Device Assembly Facility (DAF) at the Nevada Nuclear Security Site. Almost 13 metric tons of surplus weapons plutonium had been stored in the K-Rector prior to the shipment.

It is unknown when the unjustified shipment of ½ metric ton (500 kilograms or 1100 pounds) took place but DOE on January 30, 2019 informed the federal district court in Nevada that the shipment had concluded prior to November 2018. Due to security reasons, no public notice was given before the shipment took place. And, the highway route taken by the secure DOE transport vehicles is unknown.

In a “Notice of New Information” filed with the United States District Court for the District of Nevada, DOE stated:

“Because sufficient time has now elapsed after conclusion of this campaign, DOE may now publicly state that it has completed all shipment of plutonium (approximately ½ metric ton) to Nevada pursuant to its efforts to comply with the South Carolina U.S. District Court order. Although the precise date that this occurred cannot be revealed for reasons of operational security, it can be stated that this was done before November 2018, prior to the initiation of the litigation.”

“The shipment of this large amount of plutonium on our nation’s highways has no justification beyond pleasing the federal court in South Carolina and due to the environmental and security risks it posed sit should have never taken place,” according to Tom Clements, director of Savannah River Site Watch. “We hope that this shipment concludes the campaign to transfer plutonium from SRS to Nevada and that the remaining plutonium at SRS remains in secure storage until a disposition path is clear,” he added.

DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration has claimed that it has reclassified the plutonium in question as having a national defense need and that it could at some unknown point be fabricated into plutonium “pits” for nuclear weapons.

“DOE has a huge amount of surplus plutonium, making the reclassification of this material unnecessary, and no justification has been presented of need for new pit fabrication capacity for nuclear weapons,” according to Clements of SRS Watch.
Court filing of January 30, 2019 linked here:
http://www.srswatch.org/uploads/2/7/5/8/27584045/nnsa_filing_plutonium_shipment_done_jan_30_ 2019.pdf
SRS Watch news release on the shipment issue, January 7, 2019, with much useful informative in the “notes” section “Federal Court Hearing on State of Nevada’s “Preliminary Injunction” Request to Stop Unjustified Shipment of 1 Metric Ton of Plutonium from SRS to Nevada Set for January 17, 2019 in Reno, NV”:
http://www.srswatch.org/uploads/2/7/5/8/27584045/savannah_river_site_watch__news_on_plutoniu m_shipment_court_hearings_jan_7_2019.pdf
SRS Watch factsheet on challenges to plutonium “pit” production – for nuclear weapons – at SRS, released January 29, 2019: “Obstacles and Concerns Related to “Repurposing” of the Abandoned Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) at DOE’s Savannah River Site (SRS) to Production of Plutonium Pits for Nuclear Weapons”: http://www.srswatch.org/uploads/2/7/5/8/27584045/srs_watch_challenges_to_pit_production_at_srs _jan_2019.pdf

Obstacles and Concerns Related to “Repurposing” of the Abandoned Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) at DOE’s Savannah River Site (SRS) to Production of Plutonium Pits for Nuclear Weapons

Emphasis our own. Original news release here: http://www.srswatch.org/uploads/2/7/5/8/27584045/srs_watch_news_plutonium_shipment_occurred_court_filing_jan_30_2019.pdf

MA Comment on SRS Watch document below: Since the MOX facility was poorly constructed, it’s hard to see how it’s a good thing that the workers were sent to the Savannah River Nuclear site to work. If they can’t even do basic construction, how will they deal with dangerous waste? Frightening.

More from Savannah River Site Watch/Tom Clements:
January 2019 Comments, Updates & Inquiries Welcomed

Obstacles and Concerns Related to “Repurposing” of the Abandoned Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) at DOE’s Savannah River Site (SRS) to Production of Plutonium Pits for Nuclear Weapons

Since there has been no public release by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) of an outline of plans about activities to shutter the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) at DOE’s Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina, the public remains in the dark about MOX closure plans. A Freedom of Information Act request has been filed by Savannah River Site Watch (SRS Watch) for the “Statement of Work” that DOE has contracted with Savannah River Nuclear Solutions for project closure.

There remains an unknown amount of construction problems that were unaddressed when construction on the MOX plant ceased. Public testimony and DOE documents and MOX workers have indicated a host of “rework” problems at the facility. It is unknown if an accurate list of such problems has been developed and how those problems – which involve such things as wall placement, piping, wiring, cable trays, pipe hangers and the HVAC system – would be addressed in any closure and “repurposing” of the building.

Many questions remain about the role of NNSA and contractor CB&I Areva/Orano MOX Services and other contractor in the MOX project. Investigations and hearings about possible fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement must be conducted by Congress and federal agencies before any repurposing of the MOX building is considered.

NNSA has said in public documents that it intends to repurpose the MOX plant for pit production but no engineering basis has been presented for such a plan and if the MOX building, with uncorrected construction problems, could even be safely converted to pit production. A FOIA request has been submitted by SRS Watch for the “Statement of Work” between NNSA and Savannah River Nuclear Solutions for documents related to preliminary MOX facility conversion activities.

Pit production at SRS would mean more controversial shipments of plutonium into South Carolina. In 2007, SRS was designated as the site to store surplus non-pit plutonium and currently stores about 13 metric tons of plutonium in the old K-Reactor. Given the demise of MOX and questions about the “dilute and dispose” method of plutonium disposition in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), SRS is now stuck with that plutonium. Lawsuits in federal court in South Carolina and Nevada are addressing the requirement for risky and unjustified plutonium removal, initially 1 metric ton, from SRS to another DOE site (with lead candidate being the Device Assembly Facility at the Nevada National Security Site). Any new plutonium shipments to SRS for any reason will be met with public concern.

SRS has no experience involving production of plutonium pits and their handling of pits. While SRS produced over 36 metric tons of plutonium in 5 reactors until they closed in the late 1980s, SRS shipped that plutonium for pit production to the now-closed Rocky Flats Plant in Colorado. SRS has recently been opening a few plutonium storage cans for monitoring and downblending for disposal in WIPP and has purified plutonium oxide in the H-Canyon reprocessing plant – that project has now ended – but has no pit production experience. Therefore, the site would be on a steep and stressful learning curve, which could set up the pit project for failure, leaving plutonium stranded at SRS.

NNSA has so far refused to prepare any National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documents on the need for expanded pit production at SRS or other DOE sites and thus failed to analyze the environmental and health risks of pit production, including impacts of chemical and nuclear waste streams associated with pit production. A Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) must be prepared to address the need and impacts of expanded pit production DOE system-wide, followed by a site-specific EIS detailing specific impacts at the site. Both documents would involve public comments and hearings.

Though MOX was always a parochial jobs program for the SRS area, pursuit of pit production to make up for jobs lost by MOX termination is no justification for a pit mission at SRS. Thankfully, it appears that the bulk of laid-off MOX workers have been able to find other jobs at SRS and Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, the main SRS contractor, has advertised that MOX workers have a preference in hiring.

The Congressional Budget Office’s January 2019 Projected Costs of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2019 to 2028 estimates “about $9 billion from 2019 to 2028 for expanded pit production capacity, although that estimate is very uncertain.” Spending $1 billion per year on pit production – an amount likely to escalate based on past DOE performance – would place a severe strain on the DOE budget and result in elimination of better-justified projects.

Over $5 billion was wasted on MOX plant construction and possibly $2 billion more was spent on planning and administration since MOX was conceived in 1995. This massive waste of taxpayer money and the mismanagement of the MOX project by NNSA and contractors looms as indicator of how another large, costly project at SRS will be managed. The MOX boondoggle must not be used to justify the hastily planned, unneeded pursuit of yet another complex, costly jobs project that could have the same negative results. Investigations into why MOX failed and if there was fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement must precede any talk of moving pit production into the MOX plant.

Contact: This factsheet on SRS Watch website at: https://tinyurl.com/y9wmkre5 Tom Clements Aerial photos of MOX plant, Dec. 16, 2018: https://tinyurl.com/y7ruvec8
Emphasis our own; original here: http://www.srswatch.org/uploads/2/7/5/8/27584045/srs_watch_challenges_to_pit_production_at_srs_jan_2019.pdf

Pay at NNSA for Nevada: https://www.energy.gov/nnsa/leadership-and-offices/working-nnsa
At the site there is a link to payscale for other NNSA sites. It includes salary for those who transport nuclear waste.

Plutonium went missing in San Antonio, but the government says nothing Losses of civilian nuclear material are usually disclosed but when the government loses nuclear bomb ingredients it stays mum By Patrick Malone and R. Jeffrey Smith/Center for Public Integrity Updated 7:05 am CDT, Monday, July 16, 2018 http://web.archive.org/web/20181220041708/https://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local/article/Plutonium-went-missing-in-San-Antonio-but-the-13071072.php


HT (hat-tip) for pointing out this case: https://gilbertweaversatchell.org