NNSA completes milestones for initial steps in plutonium disposition

  • Posted: Friday, November 16, 2012 9:35 p.m.

The National Nuclear Security Administration announced Friday that it has completed two milestones toward production of early plutonium oxide feedstock for its Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility located at the Savannah River Site.

In its second year in production, NNSA exceeded the fiscal year 2012 goal of 200 kilograms of plutonium oxide production by disassembling nuclear weapons pits and converting them into plutonium oxide at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

NNSA also initiated operations at H-Canyon and HB-Line at SRS to begin plutonium oxide production. The production at both LANL and SRS provides the initial feedstock for the MOX facility and demonstrates the first steps toward permanent plutonium disposition.

SRS’s H-Canyon chemical separations area was reassigned to produce plutonium oxide for three years in October 2011. H-Canyon is expected to provide significant amounts of feedstock, much of which is said to be coming from nonpit plutonium already in storage at SRS.

“The progress achieved at LANL and SRS in support of plutonium disposition demonstrates the benefits of utilizing existing facilities in support of NNSA’s efforts to eliminate surplus weapons plutonium,” said NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino. “Feedstock for the MOX facility represents a critical component of the U.S. plutonium disposition strategy and will enable the United States to meet international nonproliferation commitments while advancing President Barack Obama’s goal of permanently reducing the number of nuclear weapons across the globe.”

Following a rigorous process, Shaw AREVA MOX Services, the prime contractor for the design, construction and start-up of the MOX facility, has officially accepted a total of 442 kilograms of plutonium oxide from LANL for the MOX facility.

The MOX nonproliferation program is designed to dispose of 34 metric tons of surplus plutonium by blending it with uranium. This will make nuclear fuel suitable for use in commercial power reactors.

The government’s original plan included building a “pit disassembly” plant near the MOX compound but later opted to use several existing facilities to process the plutonium into oxide form.

Savannah River Nuclear Solutions initiated repackaging and dissolution of the non-pit plutonium material in H-Canyon this month, marking a significant milestone for H-Canyon’s efforts to support the mission to produce early feed for the MOX facility.

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