13 Nevada tribes join protest of federal plutonium shipments
CARSON CITY Nev. — Thirteen tribes in Nevada and western Utah are urging President Donald Trump and Energy Secretary Rick Perry to suspend any shipments of weapons-grade plutonium to a site north of Las Vegas.
According to commentary contained in a series of letters sent Monday, March 25, to Trump and Perry, tribal leaders said they share the state of Nevada’s concerns that they were not informed or consulted about a half metric ton (1,102 pounds) of the radioactive material the government secretly shipped to Nevada over the state’s objections last year.
According to the Nevada Indian Commission, tribal chairmen from the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe, Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe, Duckwater Shoshone Tribe, Walker River Paiute Tribe, Fort McDermitt Paiute Shoshone Tribe, Elko Band Council, Ely Shoshone Tribe, Yerington Paiute Tribe, Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of the Duck Valley Indian Reservation, Summit Lake Paiute Tribe, Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe and the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute — which encompasses parts of Eastern Nevada and Western Utah — all wrote letters of concern.
“As a Southern Nevada tribe, our reservations — one in downtown Las Vegas and another in the northwestern part of the Las Vegas Valley — are in direct proximity to the transportation routes that may have been utilized for this shipment to the Nevada National Security Site,” Chris Spotted Eagle, tribal chairman of the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe, wrote in his letter. “Were an incident to occur during such transport, our tribal citizens would be exposed to potentially harmful impacts.”
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak previously sent a letter to President Donald Trump on Feb. 27, requesting a meeting to discuss the plutonium shipment and the administration’s plans for the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site.
President Trump has yet to acknowledge or respond to Gov. Sisolak’s request for a meeting, according to a Nevada Indian Commission news release on March 25.
“This is a real concern for Nevada’s Tribes,” said Sherry Rupert, executive director of the Nevada Indian Commission, in the release. “The sovereign tribes of Nevada should be afforded consultation as this decision affects their homelands and their citizens.”
Arlan Melendez, chairman of the RSIC, said the plutonium is being stored on ancestral homelands of the Western Shoshone people.
In his letter to Trump, he urged the president to accept the meeting with Sisolak and “that your DOE Secretary work closely with our tribal and state leaders to address the specifics of this recent shipment, and to ensure that no more hazardous material is sent to and/or left behind on our land.”
Energy Department officials confirmed last week they are working with Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto to expedite removal of the plutonium from Nevada.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Stacey Montooth, a member of the Walker River Paiute Nation who works currently as Public Relations and Community Information Officer for the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, will start her new role Sept. 1.