DOE ends dispute with South Carolina on Pu removal

The DOE is working to remove plutonium stored at its Savannah River Site.

The Department of Energy has reached a settlement with the state of South Carolina to remove 9.5 metric tons (t) of plutonium from the state, the agency announced on August 31. Under the settlement, which resolves litigation over the storage of surplus plutonium at the Savannah River Site near Aiken, S.C., the state will receive an upfront lump sum of $600 million in economic and impact assistance payments. In return, the DOE will be allowed more time (through 2037) to remove the plutonium from the state without the threat of lawsuits.

The settlement stems from the DOE's termination of the Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility in 2018. The MOX facility was intended to meet a nonproliferation agreement between the United States and Russia to dispose of 34 t of weapons-grade plutonium by converting it to nuclear fuel for commercial power reactors. Reported to be 70-percent completed when construction was halted, the MOX facility was approximately $13 billion over budget and 32 years behind schedule, according to the DOE.

Savannah River HB Line placed in safe shutdown status

The HB Line facility at SRS is located on top of the H Canyon chemical separations facility.

The HB Line facility at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina was recently placed in a reversible safe shutdown status, the DOE announced on June 24. The shutdown will save about $40 million a year starting in 2021, compared to 2016, when the facility’s plutonium feedstock operation was at its peak.

Experimental Breeder Reactor I: A retrospective

In the not-so-distant 20th century past, our planet was in an uncertain new-world order. The second of two major wars had dramatically reshaped the landscape of the world's nations. It was not by any means assured that the extraordinary nuclear process of fission, which itself had been discovered mere years before the second war's end, would be successfully utilized for anything but the tremendous and frightening powers realized in thermonuclear warheads. In the years following, a humble project materializing out of the National Reactor Testing Station in Idaho was to challenge that assertion and demonstrate that nuclear fission could indeed be a commercial, peaceful source of electrical power for civilizations around the globe.

Plutonium Disposition by “Downblending and Disposal”

Plutonium_ring 211x201The subject of plutonium disposition has a long history that dates back to the end of the Cold War, combining complex technical, policy, and diplomatic issues. A discussion of this history is timely because the Department of Energy recently released a report1 evaluating technological alternatives to the current approach of disposing of plutonium using mixed oxide (MOX) fuel. One option-referred to as "downblending and disposal"-was assessed favorably in terms of cost, timeliness, and technical risk, but it introduces new technical and political challenges. This blog post provides a brief summary of the storied history of plutonium disposition.

The Cassini-Huygens Mission to Saturn

Cassini-Huygens is a Flagship-class NASA-ESA-ASI robotic spacecraft sent to the Saturn system. It has studied the planet and its many natural satellites since its arrival there in 2004, as well as observing Jupiter and the Heliosphere, and testing the theory of relativity. Launched in 1997 after nearly two decades of gestation, it includes a Saturn orbiter Cassini and an atmospheric probe/lander Huygens that landed in 2005 on the moon Titan. Cassini is the fourth space probe to visit Saturn and the first to enter orbit, and its mission is ongoing as of 2013.  It is powered by a plutonium power source, and has facilitated many landmark scientific discoveries in its mission to the stars.

Dr. G. Ivan Maldonado presents ANS comments at TVA Board hearing

On August 16, G. Ivan Maldonado, PhD, Associate Professor of Nuclear Engineering with the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, attended a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Board Meeting on behalf of the American Nuclear Society to present comments on the use the of mixed uranium-plutonium oxide (MOX) fuel technology to accomplish the timely disposition of surplus weapons-grade plutonium.

Nuclear-powered Mars rover Curiosity lands safely

An image sent by NASA's Curiosity rover shortly after landing

The nuclear-powered roving robotic laboratory Curiosity touched down early on August 6, and is beaming back images while undergoing system checks. The Curiosity landing has generated worldwide interest, including interest in its plutonium power source.

ANS Nuclear Matinee: Mars Rover Curiosity, A Nuclear Powered Mobile Laboratory

Early on Monday morning (1:31AM Eastern Daylight Time), after having traveled 352 million miles, NASA's robotic rover Curiosity is scheduled to touch down inside the Gale Crater on the surface of Mars. Soon after, it will begin looking for clues about possible early forms of Martian life.

ANS's Mark Peters testifies to Congress on recycling used nuclear fuel

On  Wednesday, June 6, Dr. Mark T. Peters appeared on behalf  of the American Nuclear Society before the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific.  Peters is the Deputy Laboratory Director for Programs at Argonne National Laboratory and testified at the invitation of the subcommittee.

ANS's Loewen visits local sections

Eric Loewen, president of the American Nuclear Society, kept up his rapid pace last week as he visited the ANS local section in Aiken, S.C., on February 15, and the one in Charlotte, N.C., on February 16. Loewen, as the featured speaker at the meetings of the two sections, presented his personal talk titled "Plutonium: Promise or Peril".

Space, the final nuclear frontier: NETS-2011

From high in orbit above planet Earth... to the dusty surface of the moon... to the stunning cloud tops and moons of Jupiter... to the dazzling rings of Saturn... even to the darkness at the edge of interstellar space-nuclear technology has made possible incredible journeys to extraordinary destinations in our Solar System, and opened doors to some of the most profound discoveries of all time. Yet, the future of nuclear technology for space exploration promises even more remarkable journeys and more amazing discoveries.