Plutonium Shipment Highlights Nuclear Contradictions

March 25, 2019


I’ve never been accused (yet) of being a pro-nuclear shill, but we’re going to have to take a clear-eyed view of our nuclear waste problem, whether or not we go forward with the Nuclear industry. Working on a vid around this topic.
Long term, we’re going to have to move the nuclear waste in “temporary” storage casks on the shores, for instance, of the Great Lakes. To do that, lefties and enviros are going to have to get a grip and realize that means moving it, likely on highways, in a safe and regulated manner.

In this case, outrage over a movement of weapons grade plutonium, done in secret.

I don’t see any option for moving weapons grade material, except in secret and under tight security – this has been one of the main concerns that thoughtful folks have about nuclear technology – the corrosive effect of a the needed security apparatus on constitutional protections.

“New” nuclear technology is proposed that does not rely on or produce weapons grade material, but has yet to be proven at scale. More on this soon.

Nevada Independent:

Federal officials have disclosed that they shipped radioactive plutonium to Nevada in spite of the state’s vehement opposition to the idea and concerns that doing so would be a slippery slope to opening the state up to further nuclear waste dumping.

In a federal court filing on Wednesday, National Nuclear Security Administration General Counsel Bruce Diamond stated that the agency sent about half a metric ton of the substance sometime before November 2018, prior to Nevada suing over the proposed move. The transfer was done after a U.S. District Court in South Carolina ordered the material be removed from that state.

Gov. Steve Sisolak accused the government of lying to the state and said he was irate over the move, which was first reported by national defense reporter Dan Leone.

“I am beyond outraged by this completely unacceptable deception from the U.S. Department of Energy,” he said in a statement. “The Department led the State of Nevada to believe that they were engaging in good-faith negotiations with us regarding a potential shipment of weapons-grade plutonium, only to reveal that those negotiations were a sham all along.”

Sisolak said at a press conference in Carson City that the state doesn’t know exactly when the plutonium came, how many states it passed through or what route it took before arriving at its destination. It also doesn’t know whether anyone suffered adverse effects as a result of the shipment.

“To put the health and well-being of millions of people at risk due to the transportation into Nevada, without giving us the opportunity to prepare in case there would’ve been a mishap along the way, I think it was irresponsible and reckless on behalf of the department,” Sisolak said.


The governor said the state has no idea when the hazardous material arrived in Nevado, nor what route it took on its way there — meaning officials have no way of knowing whether anyone suffered adverse effects as a result.

Attorney General Aaron Ford described communications the state had with federal officials since first learning last spring that the department was considering such a transfer. He said the state told officials the environmental analysis the government conducted was insufficient and has asked for a timeline in the fall of when the shipment might arrive.

He said Federal Judge Miranda Du had even said during a recent court hearing that she hoped the government was not shipping the plutonium while the case was pending in front of her.

But the shipment had already been completed.

Nevada Independent:


Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke said during a campaign swing through Las Vegas this weekend that if elected he would not look to fund or reopen the shuttered nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, a rebuke of efforts by the Trump Administration to kickstart the mothballed facility over the last two years.

O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman, made the comment during an interview sandwiched between two campaign events late Sunday morning. In between bites of a bagel and lox, O’Rourke told The Nevada Independent he was “really disappointed” in a move by the Trump Administration to transfer plutonium to the state late last year without first notifying representatives.

“I think beyond the concern in this state, I’m concerned about the other states and communities through which this waste will pass if it is transported here in the future,” he said.

But O’Rourke did not provide a clear answer when pressed on where that waste should go if not to Nevada, saying he was “confident in a country this size” that there would be a place that fits the bill.

“We should find a way to store that waste that provides the absolute minimum impact or risk to people, first and foremost, to the environment and to communities in this country,” O’Rourke said.

55 Responses to “Plutonium Shipment Highlights Nuclear Contradictions”

  1. Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

    Here is the story of the reprocessed nuclear waste from Australia’s medical and only nuclear reactor. Arrived back from France a couple of years ago. ‘Greenpeace’ was out in force to expose the secret move, on so many vehicles and flashing lights it could be seen from the International Space Station. Suspiciously, it also moved through Sydney at night rather than daytime. Sydney does not have peak hour traffic, just about 15 hours of perpetual congestion. Happily their histrionic reporting impressed few. To agree with Greenman, the waste problem needs to be addressed, it exists, will not go away by itself and is not good. Here we have about 130 ‘official’ waste repositories, mostly in hospitals and universities. Getting rid of the crap is purely a SILLY political problem.

  2. Terry Donte Says:

    There is something seriously wrong with this story. A half ton of weapons grade plutonium would make a bunch of small bombs. Since a half ton would explode they cannot have been shipping in in one pile or even in a bunch of small piles. At say 10 pds each bomb we have 100 weapons. Since we know they were not shipping the equivalent of 100 weapons what were they shipping? I bet 10000 tons of dirt with maybe 1000 pds of plutonium mixed in which means it was not usable to make bombs and the governor knew that and simply lied.

    The nuclear industry in the USA is much safer than coal, much safer than natural gas, much safer than any other form of base line energy except hydro. We are maxed out in hydro. Solar has no cost effective storage to store millions of mega watt hours to run things 24/7/365. Wind has the same problem. Geo thermal is fine but has its own problems with chemicals in the water, corrosion and is not available all over the country.

  3. dumboldguy Says:

    Read the full Nevada Independent story to get a full understanding of the issue:

    As usual, there is something “seriously wrong” with Terry Donte’s understanding of things scientific. Starting with “A half ton of weapons grade plutonium would make a bunch of small bombs. Since a half ton would explode they cannot have been shipping in in one pile or even in a bunch of small piles”. and finishing with “10000 tons of dirt with maybe 1000 pds of plutonium mixed in which means it was not usable to make bombs and the governor knew that and simply lied”, Terry once again demonstrates that he needs to take some science courses.

    First, remember that weapons grade plutonium is not “waste”—-it actually became “surplus” and it was being moved out of SC because of a law suit.

    Second, all kinds of radioactive substances are being shipped all over the country all the time by the thousands of shipments, many of them far more radioactive and dangerous than plutonium. Yes, a half-ton of plutonium piled up WOULD likely begin a fission chain reaction, but the pile would quickly blow apart before it could generate enough energy to be called a true “bomb”. It would become a “dirty bomb” however, and the area around the spot where it “blew” would be uninhabitable for many centuries.

    Third, the “mixing it with dirt” is laughable. It appears it was shipped in ten trucks, ~100 pounds per truck, and there is more than enough room in a truck to separate it into quantities small enough that they can’t fission (i.e., Terry’s “small piles”). I’m sure that the packaging was such that even if the truck crashed and stood on its nose, the plutonium couldn’t assemble into a critical mass.

    Fourth, the governor didn’t lie, although as Peter implies, he may have been seeking votes rather than being “clear-eyed” about the nuclear problem.

  4. Joe Za Says:

    I posted on an earlier article but got no replies. I am hoping that I will here. I have been looking for a good graph showing the continuation of the hockeystick graph. We can see the rise in temperature up to the year 2000. Does anyone know of a good graph that shows the upward trend beyond yr. 2000 ? I have looked but cannot find any. Most people here are knowledgeable about climate change. Can anyone help me find this graph ?
    Thank you

    • Sir Charles Says:


      And see the first graph here => Global warming will happen faster than we think

      (worthwhile reading the full article and watching the video abstract at the bottom of the page)

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Surprisingly, you’re right about not finding many graphs with data beyond 2000 and 2010. The only one I found was in Wikipedia.

      When you look at these graphs, remember that the choice of vertical and horizontal scales can distort the appearance of the data. Mann’s original hockey stick was for the ~500 years before 1997—-he and others have extended it back through the holocene, and the red and blue portions of Sir Chucky’s second graph are a good representation, even if a bit exaggerated vertically.

      PS You can make your own “extension” by looking up the yearly increases for each year.

      • Sir Charles Says:

        2016 was the hottest year on record and according to NASA GISS 1.23°C above pre-industrial. Therefore the vertical line is not exaggerating. It’s pretty much in line with this graph:

        • dumboldguy Says:

          How many times have you posted this exact graph? Dozens?

          And how many times have I pointed out that it’s misleading, in that it’s a visual distortion of the data? It should be called the “scythe” graph, not a hockeystick.

          24,000 units on the X axis and only 4 on the y-axis? And everything in the orange and red “hot zones” that make up 80% of the plot are projections that will come true IF we don’t do something?

          Are you trying to scare people? Are you a troll seeking to get people to say “what’s the use?” and burn more oil and gas? Russian oil and gas?

          • Sir Charles Says:

            Get your medication, dumbo.

            It’s all described here => Global warming will happen faster than we think

          • dumboldguy Says:

            I don’t need a “description”, Chucky. I have both the brains and the science education to understand every link you’ve ever posted and have been following AGW for 25 years. I’m way ahead of you.

            Deal with the issue—-it’s a misleading graph, in that it’s a visual distortion of the data. And 24,000 units on the X axis and only 4 on the y-axis? And everything in the orange and red “hot zones” that make up 80% of the plot are projections that will come true ONLY IF we don’t do something?

            Most important—Are you trying to scare people? Are you a troll seeking to get people to say “what’s the use?” and burn more oil and gas? Russian oil and gas?

          • Sir Charles Says:

            You obviously haven’t learnt much during those 25 years. I don’t think the creator of that graph is putting millidegrees in only because a dumb old guy is demanding that.

            Maybe you need to put your glasses on. It’s written on the graph “expected under current policies”, and there is a little circle where you can read “now”. A second grader could do better than you, grumpo. Your obvious obsession to behave like a clown is quite hilarious (from time to time).

          • dumboldguy Says:

            You lose again, Chucky. Given a chance to actually answer some questions and say something of value, you AGAIN choose to deflect, deny, ignore, and insult—-just another impotent NON-response.

            Are you telling us that “expected under current policies”, is NOT a projection as I said? Can you not see that “now” IS below the 80% of the plot that is projections?. Can you not see that the choice of scales for the axes makes the plot almost a vertical line, and therefore more of a “scare” than useful as information? How can you deny those FACTS? How can you be so stupid as to try to bluster your way out of this? Are you imitating Trump? Are you a troll for Russian oil and gas?

            You are the clumsy clown here, Chucky. You ought to back off before you hurt yourself.

          • Sir Charles Says:

            The fact is that these projections are REAL.

            But never mind. The readers will make the difference between your desperate rant and the projections science is telling us. If you ever had bothered to READ the article that’s coming with this graph you wouldn’t make a total clown of yourself.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      I, too, spent a lot of time looking for current representations of the hockey stick, but my Google Fu was not sufficient to the task.

      A related whine I have is that so many of the projection graphs still end at 2100 rather than looking ahead 100 years, as they did in 2000.

  5. Joe Za Says:

    Thank you . This is very helpful.

  6. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    To [move waste], lefties and enviros are going to have to get a grip and realize that means moving it, likely on highways, in a safe and regulated manner.

    Nuclear waste gets a lot of attention, but there are hundreds of thousands of people who live near questionably maintained rail lines that transport all sorts of hazardous chemical substances on a regular basis. Then there are residents who are unaware that they are potentially downwind of a chemical plant that can fail due to poor safety culture.

    Here are some of what I call “industrial safety porn” videos describing research by the US Chemical & Safety Hazard Investigation Board.

    The analysis of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, for instance, shows that one safety subsystem had three major installation failures. People can have a false sense of security about failsafe systems that are installed poorly or not maintained.

    • Sir Charles Says:

      True. We’re arrogant enough to claim that we could manage a waste problem which is radiating for hundreds of thousands of years.

      A Google search for “Asse Germany radioactive waste catastrophe” will tell you the story about a nuclear repository which in the 1980s was alleged to be “safe for hundreds of thousands of years”, but ground water started leaking into this old salt mine just years later. Nobody knows now what to do. Recovering the 120,000 barrels seems to be too expensive if not impossible. German engineering suffering borderline. A legacy for generations to come.

      Here an article in the New Scientist => Radioactive waste dogs Germany despite abandoning nuclear power

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