SRS Sign, Plutonium On Track

An entrance to the Savannah River Site, a 310 square-mile complex south of Aiken.

The National Nuclear Security Administration, a semiautonomous U.S. Department of Energy agency, remains confident it can satisfy a district court's Savannah River Site plutonium removal order.

On Wednesday, a NNSA senior spokesperson told the Aiken Standard via email the agency continues to "be on track" to get a total one metric ton of weapons-usable plutonium out of South Carolina by 2020.

A half-metric-ton has already been moved from SRS to the Nevada National Security Site, according to an end-of-January court declaration. That relocation was done prior to November 2018, the same declaration states.

Nevada lawmakers have not taken the news well.

Late last year, a NNSA spokesperson said the agency was "actively working" to get the plutonium out of the Palmetto State. At the time, the spokesperson said half of the metric ton would be moved by the end of the year, and the other half would be moved by the end of 2019.

The total one metric ton is to be sent to NNSS, the Pantex Plant in Texas, and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, according to a NNSA study dated July 2018. The metric ton will ultimately be used for weapons — pit production — purposes, according to the same study and a Jan. 31 statement from the DOE.

"This material is essential for maintenance of the U.S. weapons stockpile, and is handled with the highest standards for safety and security," the statement reads.

No more plutonium related to the SRS-removal campaign will be sent to NNSS, according to court documents filed by the federal government. 

"All other shipments of plutonium … are going elsewhere," a filing reads.

Asked if the remaining half-metric-ton would be sent specifically to Pantex, the senior NNSA spokesperson would neither confirm nor deny the matter.

"Pantex, NNSS, and LANL were the designated recipient staging sites," the spokesperson said.

No new recipient sites have been identified, either, the spokesperson added.

Colin Demarest is the government and Savannah River Site reporter with the Aiken Standard. Follow him on Twitter: @demarest_colin