RENO, Nev. — A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled against Nevada in a battle with the U.S. government over its secret shipment of weapons-grade plutonium to a site near Las Vegas.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the state’s appeal after a judge refused to block any future shipments to Nevada. The court in San Francisco said the matter is moot because the Energy Department already sent the radioactive material and has promised that no more will be hauled there.
“The remedy Nevada sought — stopping the government from shipping plutonium from South Carolina to Nevada under the proposed action — is no longer available,” the court wrote.
Nevada also wanted the court to order the government to remove the plutonium it shipped last year but didn’t reveal had arrived there until January.
The 9th Circuit said that issue also is moot because the state failed to include that request in its original motion seeking to block future shipments.
“Because the government completed the shipment, any harm caused by the shipment cannot be ‘undone’ by granting the motion Nevada actually filed,” the ruling said.
Neither the state nor the Energy Department immediately responded to requests for comment.
Nevada sued in federal court in Reno last November, accusing the agency of illegally deciding it could transport the material without completing a full environmental review of potential health and safety dangers.
Although Nevada wasn’t aware at the time, the government had already shipped a half metric ton of plutonium from South Carolina to the Nevada National Security Site, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northwest of Las Vegas. That site is separate from but close to the Yucca Mountain site in the Mojave Desert where the Trump administration wants to build a high-level radioactive waste repository.