Judge allows Nevada to amend suit over removal of plutonium

SCOTT SONNER
FILE - In this April 9, 2015, file photo, people walk into the south portal of Yucca Mountain during a congressional tour of the proposed radioactive waste dump near Mercury, Nev., 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. A federal judge in Reno has agreed to allow Nevada to amend its lawsuit in an ongoing legal battle with the U.S. Energy Department to try to show why the government should be forced to remove weapons-grade plutonium it secretly shipped to a site near Las Vegas last year over the state's objections. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A federal judge agreed Monday to allow Nevada to amend its lawsuit against the U.S. Energy Department as the state tries to force the agency to remove weapons-grade plutonium it secretly shipped to a site near Las Vegas.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco previously ruled it wouldn't consider Nevada's demand because the state didn't make the request as part of its original lawsuit.

However, U.S. District Judge Miranda Du said in her ruling Monday in Reno that she will allow the state to amend its lawsuit to include the new request.

Energy Department officials didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

Nevada has said from the start that the government failed to complete the necessary environmental reviews before approving the shipment.

Refusing to allow the state to amend its lawsuit to add the removal request "would perversely motivate DOE to continue its deceit and covertly dump nuclear material in Nevada before examining environmental consequences," the state argued.

The Energy Department has assured the state that no more weapons-grade plutonium would be shipped to Nevada.

However, it argued that Nevada's demand to remove the plutonium already there contradicts the state's previous contention that the material is too dangerous to transport without further environmental review.

The department acknowledged for the first time in January that one-half metric ton of plutonium already had been trucked from South Carolina to Nevada between August and November 2018.

Du said in her nine-page ruling Monday that the 9th Circuit has held previously that federal rules don't prevent a party from filing pleadings with "inconsistent or even contradictory allegations" as long as they don't engage in bad faith.

"Here, it would simply be disingenuous for the government to even contend that Nevada acts in bad faith in seeking to amend its complaint to request removal of the plutonium," she wrote.