AP NEWS

Aiken County Council again announces support of pit production mission at SRS

March 21, 2019

The Aiken County Council has doubled down on its support of plutonium pit production at the Savannah River Site.

County Council in early March unanimously approved a resolution detailing collective support for the prospective – and enduring – mission.

“The plutonium pit production mission is critical for our national security and important for both the future of SRS and for sustaining the economy in Aiken County,” the resolution reads in part.

Plutonium pits are nuclear weapon cores. On May 10, 2018, the National Nuclear Security Administration and the U.S. Department of Defense together recommended producing 50 pits per year at SRS. Another 30 per year, according to the recommendation, would be produced at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

At least 80 pits per year are needed by 2030, according to the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review.

Producing pits at SRS would be best accomplished by repurposing the now-defunct Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facilit y, per the 2018 recommendation.

The NNSA officially killed the MOX project – designed to turn 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium into nuclear fuel – on Oct. 10, 2018.

The resolution directly addresses that move: “The reuse of the partially complete and now discontinued Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility … at SRS will help meet the tight schedule requested by DOD for new plutonium pits.”

County Council Chairman Gary Bunker on Wednesday said the resolution is like an update to a similar pro-MOX, pro-pits resolution the council passed early last year.

Bunker said pit production “represents the future” of SRS. He described the prospective mission as a means to keep SRS viable for “decades” to come.

The pit production mission is still not officially guaranteed for the site, though; the next significant milestone will come when the deputy secretary of energy, currently Dan Brouillette, signs off on a preferred approach.

That sign off could likely come in 2020, DOE officials have said.