SRNS tasked with initial work for ‘Savannah River Pit Production Plant,’ official says

January 12, 2019

The National Nuclear Security Administration has tasked and funded Savannah River Nuclear Solutions to begin preliminary design and planning work tied to plutonium pit production at the Savannah River Site, a SRNS spokesperson confirmed Friday evening.

SRNS has, as a result, established and “mobilized” teams to tackle the transition of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility as well as the development of the prospective “Savannah River Pit Production Plant,” the same spokesperson said.

SRNS, the management and operations contractor at SRS, finalized and submitted its MOX transition plan on Dec. 21, according to a senior NNSA spokesperson, who issued a lengthy statement that day.

SRNS’s initial work includes a conceptual design of an SRS-located pit production facility. The design, as well as the ongoing work, will inform future decision making and funding, according to the SRNS spokesperson.

“The preliminary plans SRNS is developing show how we will make use of SRS’s expertise, existing facilities, and infrastructure to start up and carry out this important work, which builds on the site’s historical service to the nation’s nuclear security,” the spokesperson said.

On May 10, 2018, the NNSA – a semiautonomous U.S. Department of Energy agency – and the U.S. Department of Defense together recommended producing pits at both SRS and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Plutonium pits are nuclear weapon cores, often referred to as triggers.

Producing them at SRS would require repurposing MOX, according to the joint recommendation, which was delivered the same day that U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry moved to kill the MOX project.

The NNSA terminated the MOX project five months after Perry’s opening gambit.

The NNSA’s decision to tap SRNS followed a certification made by the Nuclear Weapons Council, the SRNS spokesperson said.

Two-pronged pit production – a planned 50 pits per year at SRS and 30 pits per year at Los Alamos – “is the best way to manage the cost, schedule, and risk of such a vital undertaking,” according to a government press release issued in May.

“This is an enduring mission that is vital for strengthening the nation’s nuclear security,” the SRNS spokesperson said Friday.

SRNS’s parent companies are Fluor, Newport News Nuclear and Honeywell International.

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