NNSA Announces H-Canyon to Support Plutonium Disposition at the Savannah River Site

Press Release
Oct 31, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC: The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) this week approved the use of the H-Canyon Complex to provide approximately 3.7 MT of plutonium oxide feed for the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility from the non-pit plutonium currently stored at Savannah River Site (SRS). The use of the H-Canyon Complex will result in the retention of approximately 90 high-quality jobs in South Carolina, and demonstrates NNSA’s commitment to remove plutonium from the state.

“This joint effort between NNSA and DOE’s Office of Environmental Management helps us implement President Obama’s nuclear security agenda while keeping 90 high-quality jobs in South Carolina,” said Administrator Thomas D’Agostino.  “This decision will help us dispose of surplus weapons-grade plutonium while also investing in our current infrastructure at the Savannah River Site.”

 H-Canyon and HB-Line will initiate start-up preparations for plutonium oxide production in FY 2012.  In its next full year of operation, it is estimated that H-Canyon will produce approximately 200 kg of plutonium oxide, and ramp up to a full production rate of up to 1 MT per year in FY 2015.

NNSA’s Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation will fund the incremental operating cost to perform this work and has identified the estimated $20.5 million per year of funds needed in FY 2012. This decision will result in a cost-effective approach for producing plutonium oxide for the MOX Facility that utilizes current resources and capabilities.

 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 material for approximately 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 online.

H Canyon, located at SRS, is the only hardened nuclear chemical separations plant still in operation in the United States.  A fact sheet on H-Canyon is also available online.

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Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science in the nation’s national security enterprise. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability, and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; reduces the global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.