DOE tritium strategy

8 January 1999

The Department of Energy had to decide by year’s end on whether to use TVA nuclear plants to produce tritium for the US defence programme.

TVA has submitted two separate proposals to DOE. One would allow the DOE to pay TVA to use the Watts Bar or Sequoyah plants for irradiation services. A second proposal calls for DOE to pay to complete construction of Bellefonte in Alabama, which would be used to produce tritium. DOE would also receive a share of the revenue from the sale of electricity from Bellefonte.

Energy Secretary Richardson is required by law to decide before the end of this year on whether the department will use commercial light water reactors or build an accelerator to produce the tritium.

An 18-month test of tritium production is currently underway at Watts Bar. Monitoring of the reactor has shown that the tritium producing rods now in the reactor core are performing as intended.

TVA’s proposals were made in response to a 1997 DOE solicitation. The US has not produced tritium since 1988, when the last tritium production reactor was shut down at DOE’s Savannah River Site.

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