Archive for the ‘Plutonium’ Category

Energy Department promises to move a half-ton of waste plutonium out of Nevada

May 3rd, 2019
An aerial view of the Device Assembly Facility.

Enlarge / The Device Assembly Facility at the Nevada National Security Site. (credit: Nevada National Security Site )

This week, Energy Department Secretary Rick Perry sent a letter to Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto saying that the Department would move a half-ton load of plutonium waste out of Nevada between 2021 and 2026.

Last year, the federal government said it would move plutonium from South Carolina to the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) for temporary storage before moving it on to its final destination. The state of Nevada sued the federal government in the hopes of stopping the planned shipment, but months into the legal action, the federal government told the court that the plutonium had already been secretly delivered to the NNSS.

Nevada politicians were incensed, and Cortez Masto, who holds a seat on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, placed holds on any pending Trump administration nominations to the Department of Energy.

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US sues contractor for allegedly over-billing on now-defunct MOX fuel facility

February 20th, 2019
Workers on scaffolding at the MOX facility.

Enlarge / Construction at the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility before the project was stopped. (credit: MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility)

Last week, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a complaint against a company called CB&I Areva MOX Services and its subcontractor, Wise Services, for allegedly billing the US government for supplies that were never delivered. According to the complaint, a manager at Wise offered kickbacks including football tickets, guns, a YETI cooler, and a television to receive preferential treatment on a US government project to build a nuclear fuel reforming facility.

MOX Services was contracted by the United States National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to build the Mixed Oxides Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF), which would have repurposed weapons-grade plutonium as fuel for nuclear reactors in the United States.

After wasting more than $7.6 billion on the MFFF, the US Department of Energy (DOE) canceled work on the South Carolina facility. The department has been quietly moving plutonium out of the area since then.

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Feds secretly ship plutonium to Nevada to meet South Carolina court order

January 31st, 2019
A truck outside of Los Alamos.

Enlarge / A truck rolls out of one of the most heavily guarded facilities, the Plutonium Facility, June 14, 1999, at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, NM. (credit: Joe Raedle/Newsmakers)

On Wednesday, a lawyer for the Department of Energy (DOE) filed a notice in a federal lawsuit saying that the department's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) had secretly shipped half a metric ton of weapons-grade plutonium from South Carolina to a national security site in Nevada without the latter state's knowledge.

The new information surprised and angered many Nevada politicians because it was disclosed as part of a federal lawsuit that Nevada brought against the US government in November, seeking an injunction to prevent the NNSA from shipping the plutonium to the Silver State. The federal government announced its intentions to move the plutonium from South Carolina to Nevada in the summer, and on November 30, lawyers for the state asked the district court to stop the plans.

On Wednesday, DOE lawyer Bruce Diamond wrote (PDF) that the plutonium had already been moved, rendering Nevada's request for injunction moot. "In order to provide security for its shipments of these kinds of materials, DOE normally will not release information about the status of the shipment(s) until sometime after the shipping 'campaign' is concluded," Diamond wrote.

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