Weapons-Grade Plutonium from South Carolina May Pass Through Pantex


After years of battles in court, a metric ton of weapons-grade plutonium, currently sitting at a plant in South Carolina could be heading to Pantex. 

The United States and the Russian Federation signed the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement back in 2000. The two nations agreed to dispose of 34 tons of plutonium, which would have allowed 17,000 tons of nuclear weapons to be produced. 

However, the facility that was intended to turn the plutonium into usable fuel for nuclear reactors, never did. Now, some of that plutonium needs a new home. 

The State of South Carolina sued the National Nuclear Security Administration and the United States Department of Energy, among others, over this matter back in 2016. The resulting injunction from this case requires, in part, that no less than one metric ton of plutonium be removed from the current site in South Carolina. 

Several metric tons were approved to be stored at Savannah River Site in back in the early 2000s.

Now, the State of Nevada is fighting the transport of the plutonium to its Nevada National Security Site.

Nevada states the National Nuclear Security Administration failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires a supplemental and final environmental impact statement separate from the one that was done for the facility 10 years ago.

In the court filing, it is mentioned that the plutonium could be transferred between Pantex and the Nevada site. 

We did reach out to Pantex and received a statement from the NNSA in response, stating:

“NNSA has received notice that the State of Nevada has filed suit to stop shipments of plutonium from South Carolina to Nevada. These shipments are being undertaken to comply with a court order issued by the U.S. District Court in South Carolina. The material that we are removing from the Savannah River Site will be used for national security missions and is not waste. It will be temporarily staged at the Nevada National Security Site and Pantex Plant, which already handle and process this type of material as part of ongoing national security missions. The material will eventually be shipped to Los Alamos National Laboratory or another facility. NNSA has conducted the required National Environmental Policy Act analysis for these shipments, and all movements of this material will be carried out in a manner that complies with strict safety, security, and environmental requirements. Because this is now a matter in litigation, NNSA will be unable to respond to questions or provide further information.”

While it may be stopping at Pantex indefinitely, according to the State of Nevada’s court filing, this plutonium will, eventually, wind up at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, where it will be used in nuclear weapons production. 

The DOE has until January 1, 2020, to get no less than one metric ton of plutonium out of the Savannah River Site.

If they fail to do so, they will have to pay the State of South Carolina $1 million per day, up to $100 million dollars a year until they get that amount removed.

Hear more with Maggie Glynn tonight on Fox 14 News at 9:00 and KAMR Local 4 News at 10:00.

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