Plutonium move

14 September 2007

The US Department of Energy (DoE) is to consolidate surplus, non-pit plutonium at its Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina.

The move, which is due to be complete by 2010, is expected to reduce storage costs and improve security.

The plutonium will come from: Hanford in Washington; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California; and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Some 2300 plutonium storage containers from Hanford and nearly 700 from Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos labs are to be moved.

The surplus material to be consolidated is ‘non-pit’ plutonium, which comes from sources other than nuclear weapons triggers, or pits.

Once the material is consolidated at SRS, DoE’s current plan for processing or conditioning of surplus plutonium involves using up to three SRS facilities: the MOX fuel fabrication facility under construction, the existing H-Canyon facility, and a proposed new, small-scale plutonium vitrification plant.

The DoE said it will evaluate reducing or eliminating the need for vitrification, and, instead, putting all the surplus plutonium through the MOX plant and H-Canyon.

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