The defense of our nation relies on a nuclear deterrent. Our nuclear weapons systems while powerful, credible and long lived still must be serviced or replaced.

According to the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review completed by the Department of Defense, the nuclear weapons deterrence will require modernization. Part of that modernization will include the manufacture of new plutonium pits. Plutonium pits have not been produced in the U.S. since 1989. The Nuclear Posture Review reported a need for the production of 80 pits per year by 2030.

The Savannah River Site is ideally suited for the pit production mission. For almost 70 years, SRS has supported the defense of the country.

Tritium operations currently conducted at SRS support maintenance of the nuclear weapons stockpile. In its entire history, the SRS Tritium Enterprise has not missed a deliverable date or milestone.

Starting with DuPont, SRS operations contractors have set the global standard for nuclear safety and security. SRS has demonstrated the ability to conduct production-scale nuclear operations in a safe, secure and environmentally responsible manner.

This includes all phases of plutonium processing, material handling and accountability. Further, the Savannah River National Laboratory has core competency in actinide chemistry and has a long history of directly supporting plutonium operations. SRS has the geography, infrastructure, facilities, proven processes, skilled workforce and nuclear culture to safely conduct this mission.

The preferred alternative proposed by NNSA includes pit production at both the Los Alamos National Laboratory and SRS. It should be noted that SRS has an established history of working with Los Alamos and other weapons design laboratories in tritium research and development.

These relationships could be expanded to plutonium pit production. This would result in a national partnership that leverages talent across the DOE complex.

Opponents to a pit production mission at SRS have indicated environmental concerns and waste management challenges. On the contrary, wastes that are generated from plutonium pit production will have established disposition paths.

Meanwhile, the environmental cleanup at SRS will continue in parallel under the direction of other skilled site workers.

The NNSA has announced its intent consistent with environmental law to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) for plutonium pit production at SRS. We welcome the consideration of the Savannah River Site for the plutonium pit production mission by the NNSA. We also support the efforts of the NNSA to conduct a thorough environmental impact assessment for this vitally important mission.

James C. Marra, PhD, is the executive director of the Citizens for Nuclear Technology Awareness.