(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – The National Nuclear Security Administration’s Savannah River Tritium Enterprise (SRTE) in Aiken, S.C., has conducted three tritium extractions in fiscal year 2017, marking the first time the Tritium Extraction Facility has performed more than one extraction in a year.
“Achieving this significant milestone – especially doing it safely, securely, and in a disciplined manner – has required a tremendous team effort on the part of the entire SRTE team,” said Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz (Ret.), Department of Energy Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and NNSA Administrator. “Our ability to provide tritium is an important element to maintaining the safety, security, and effectiveness of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile.”
Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen and an integral component of U.S. nuclear weapons. The gas decays over time so the tritium must be replenished regularly.
The facilities at the Savannah River Site have been supplying tritium since the 1950s. SRTE opened the Tritium Extraction Facility in 2007 to supply tritium by extracting the gas from rods irradiated at a Tennessee Valley Authority nuclear power plant. Rods were previously irradiated in Savannah River’s own reactors until the last one was permanently shut down in the 1990s.
SRTE also maintains the tritium supply by recycling tritium from reservoirs returned from the stockpile.
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. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear explosive testing; works to reduce 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. Visit nnsa.energy.gov for more information.