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Nevada, federal government readying settlement for Savannah River plutonium lawsuit

Forrestal Building, Washington DC (copy) (copy) (copy) (copy)

The James Forrestal Building, the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Energy in Washington, D.C.

The state of Nevada and the federal government are within striking distance of settling a lawsuit concerning a half-metric ton of defense plutonium shipped from the Savannah River Site to the Silver State sometime in 2018.

The two parties have agreed on the "final language" of the deal, according to a May 28 court filing, but more time is needed to secure "final authorization" and approval from the upper echelon of government. Earlier this year, Nevada and the federal government said they were engaged in "substantive and promising" negotiations.

Both the state's counsel and the federal government's counsel last week asked U.S. District Judge Miranda M. Du not to act on the case or issue an order, as any decision from the court could jeopardize the "amicable resolution to the ongoing dispute." Du on May 29 agreed to stay the case – as she has done previously – for another month. 

A joint update is expected June 30.

Nevada in late 2018 sued the U.S. Department of Energy in an attempt to bar the movement of weapons-usable plutonium from the Savannah River Site, south of Aiken, to the Nevada National Security Site, northwest of Las Vegas, as was publicized in a July 2018 National Nuclear Security Administration environmental review.

A half-metric ton of defense plutonium, though, had already been relocated to the Nevada reserve; the covert campaign wrapped prior to November 2018, according to Bruce Diamond, the NNSA's general counsel.

South Carolina intervened in the overarching lawsuit in early 2019. The Palmetto State, a defendant, exited months later.

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