Savannah River facility prepped for NNSA project

February 7, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News
A crane is used to remove equipment during a project to repurpose Building 226-F for an NNSA mission at the Savannah River Site. (Photo: DOE)

Work has begun to prepare the Savannah River Plutonium Processing Facility (SRPPF) at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina for its future national security mission: the manufacturing of plutonium pits for the National Nuclear Security Administration.

The DOE said that after months of planning and preparation, the SRPPF project is proceeding with its first hands-on work involving local trade unions to dismantle and remove (D&R) equipment not suitable for the NNSA's purposes—including HVAC ducts, piping, electrical conduits, pumps, tanks, and gloveboxes—throughout Building 226-F. Existing coatings also will be removed from the concrete walls, floors, and ceilings.

Background: Building 226-F, a 500,000-square-foot concrete structure located in the F Area of SRS, was originally designed to dispose of surplus weapons-grade plutonium, converting it into fuel assemblies for use in commercial nuclear power plants. The DOE, however, cancelled that plan and the building is now being repurposed into the SRPPF.

D&R crews are currently working to safely dismantle and remove commodities, such as piping and conduit and other equipment, from the structure without damaging the configuration of items projected for reuse.

According to the DOE, the construction process is scheduled to be completed as close to 2030 as possible, with the first two years dedicated to the D&R process. All items and debris removed from the building will be recycled or disposed of off-site.

Pit production: The plutonium pit production mission is part of the NNSA’s long-term strategy for nuclear stockpile sustainment. Under federal law and to meet national security requirements, the NNSA must be able to produce no fewer than 80 pits per year to maintain and replenish the nuclear stockpile. Responsibilities for manufacturing 80 pits per year will be shared between two sites: Los Alamos National Laboratory, which must produce 30 pits per year, and SRS, which will be responsible for producing the remaining 50.

They said it: “This is an important day for all of us because achieving this D&R milestone is the next step to move the pit production mission forward at SRS,” said Stuart MacVean, president and chief executive officer for Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SNRS), in a February 2 statement. SRNS is the site’s managing and operations contractor.

“Repurposing Building 226-F was considered at our top levels of government,” said Scott Cannon, NNSA federal project director. “Time was really one of the bigger factors with needing this facility and capability to come on line as fast as possible.”

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