ANS weighs in on NNSA’s Pu disposition plan

February 1, 2021, 12:00PMRadwaste Solutions

The American Nuclear Society is urging the National Nuclear Security Administration to rethink its “dilute-and-dispose” plan for managing surplus weapons-grade plutonium. In comments submitted to the NNSA, ANS notes that a better solution for the agency’s inventory of surplus plutonium is to convert it to nuclear fuel for advanced reactors, as was originally intended.

The comments are in response to a December 16 Federal Register notice by the NNSA that it intends to prepare an environmental impact statement on the scope of its Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program. According to the notice, the NNSA intends to dispose of the entire 34 metric tons of surplus plutonium using its dilute-and-dispose approach, whereby the material will be downblended and shipped as transuranic waste to the Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico.

Under the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement, signed by the United States and Russia in 2000, the 34 tons of plutonium was to be converted to mixed-oxide nuclear fuel using the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site, in South Carolina. However, the Obama administration, citing rising costs, halted construction on the facility in 2016, and the project was eventually canceled in 2019.

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