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NNSA Announces Plan to Modernize, Consolidate Tritium Facilities at SRS

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today announced a new plan to modernize and consolidate the tritium facilities at the Savannah River Site (SRS) as part of NNSA’s mission to turn a Cold War nuclear weapons complex into a 21st century nuclear security enterprise. The plan will lead to a combined cost savings and cost avoidance of hundreds of millions of dollars over the next two decades.

NNSA has initiated a disciplined modernization program plan called the Tritium Responsive Infrastructure Modifications (TRIM). Similar to the strategy at Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., it includes consolidation of existing facilities, deployment of new technology and process equipment, and demolition and removal of the old buildings. The initial activities of the TRIM plan focus on the next 10 years of improvements and consolidation of enduring infrastructure, processes and resources. Implementation of this effort will result in an overall lifecycle cost reduction and assurance of a safe and secure national security tritium mission at SRS.

“The TRIM plan cuts costs and reduces the number of facilities needed to process tritium while still ensuring that the nation’s stockpile is safe, secure and effective,” said Don Cook, NNSA’s Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs. “TRIM is a clear example of NNSA’s commitment to being good stewards of the taxpayers’ money. Modernizing our nuclear security enterprise is vital to implementing President Obama’s nuclear security agenda.”

The TRIM plan has two goals: first, consolidate and modernize the tritium production processes; and second, reduce the cost of the business processes within tritium programs.

“Our tritium production mission plays a critically important role in our country’s efforts to maintain a nuclear deterrent,” said Doug Dearolph, manager of the Savannah River Site Office. “However, at the same time, we have an obligation to every American citizen to ensure all our SRS operations are managed towards continuous improvement and cost efficiencies.”

Tritium is a heavy isotope of hydrogen and a key component of nuclear weapons, but it decays radioactively at the rate of 5.5 percent each year and must be replenished periodically. This is accomplished by recycling tritium from existing warheads and by extracting tritium from target rods irradiated in nuclear reactors that are operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority. Recycled and extracted gases are purified to produce tritium that is suitable for use. The SRS Tritium Facilities occupy approximately 29 acres in the northwest portion of H Area. Operations began in 1955.

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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.