Saturday, 18 August 2012

Surplus Plutonium Disposition Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement

  7.1 Tons of Plutonium Disposition is enough to kill everyone on earth 10,000 times.


To reduce the threat of nuclear weapons proliferation, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is engaged in a program to disposition U.S. surplus, weapons-usable plutonium in a safe, secure, and environmentally sound manner, by converting such plutonium into proliferation-resistant forms that can never again be readily used in nuclear weapons.

Through the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA), the U.S. and Russia have agreed to each dispose of at least 34 metric tons of surplus weapon-grade plutonium, enough total material for 17,000 nuclear weapons.  To implement plutonium disposition in the United States, NNSA is building the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility to fabricate the plutonium feedstock into MOX fuel. A fact sheet on NNSA’s plutonium disposition program is available here.

 As one of NNSA’s core nuclear nonproliferation programs, the MOX facility will play an important role in U.S. national security and energy policy by facilitating the permanent disposition of 34 metric tons of surplus U.S. weapon grade plutonium. The MOX facility will blend this surplus plutonium with depleted uranium oxide to make mixed oxide fuel for use in existing commercial nuclear power plants. Once the MOX fuel assemblies have been irradiated in commercial power reactors, the plutonium can no longer be readily used for nuclear weapons. 

The Surplus Plutonium Disposition Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SPD Supplemental EIS) analyzes the potential environmental impacts of alternatives for the disposition of 7.1 metric tons (MT) of additional weapons-usable plutonium from pits ("pit plutonium"; a pit is the core of a nuclear weapon) that were declared surplus to national defense needs in 2007 and were not included in DOE's prior decisions and 6 MT of surplus, weapons-usable non-pit plutonium.

The SPD Supplemental EIS analyzes four alternative disposition pathways: disposition of both the non-pit and pit plutonium using the can-in-canister vitrification approach, involving small cans of material, which would be placed in a rack inside a Defense Waste Processing Facility (DWPF) canister and surrounded with vitrified high-level radioactive waste at the Savannah River Site (SRS); disposition of non-pit plutonium via H-Canyon and DWPF at SRS; disposal of non-pit plutonium at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico; and fabrication of pit and some non-pit plutonium into mixed oxide (MOX) fuel for use in domestic commercial nuclear power reactors.

The SPD Supplemental EIS also includes options for providing a pit disassembly and conversion capability including a stand-alone facility in the F-Area at SRS or installing capability in existing facilities at one or more of the following locations: the Plutonium Facility (PF-4) in Technical Area 55 (TA-55) at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), H Canyon/HB-Line at SRS, K-Area at SRS and the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) at SRS.  In addition, DOE has decided not to analyze an alternative, described in the 2010 Amended NOI, to construct a separate Plutonium Preparation (PuP) capability for non-pit plutonium because the necessary preparation activities are adequately encompassed within the other alternatives. 

The MOX Fuel Alternative is DOE’s preferred alternative for surplus plutonium disposition.  DOE’s preferred option for pit disassembly and the conversion of surplus plutonium metal to supply feed for the MFFF, is to use some combination of facilities at PF-4 at LANL, K-Area at SRS, H‑Canyon/HB-Line at SRS and MFFF at SRS, rather than to construct a new stand-alone facility.  This would likely require the installation of additional equipment and other modifications to some of these facilities.  DOE’s preferred alternative for disposition of surplus plutonium that is not suitable for MOX fuel fabrication is disposal at WIPP in New Mexico.

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is a cooperating agency for the SPD Supplemental EIS. DOE and TVA have entered into an interagency agreement to evaluate the use of mixed oxide fuel in reactors at TVA's Browns Ferry and Sequoyah Nuclear Plants.  TVA does not have a preferred alternative at this time regarding whether to pursue irradiation of MOX fuel in TVA reactors and which reactors might be used for this purpose.

 (keep reading.... National Nuclear Security Adminstration

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