Nuclear leaders, staff converge on SRS for plutonium pit production workshop

October 4, 2018

The National Nuclear Security Administration held a days-long plutonium pit production workshop at the Savannah River Site this week, according to a person familiar with the matter and an itinerary obtained by the Aiken Standard.

The get-together, scheduled Oct. 2-4, circled and was informed by the Nuclear Posture Review as well as the federal demand to produce 80 plutonium pits per year by 2030, according to the person familiar.

More than 100 people were scheduled to attend the multi-day pit production meeting, the person added. Those in attendance represented senior managers and staff from across the nation’s nuclear security complex.

The NNSA is a semiautonomous U.S. Department of Energy agency in charge of the nation’s nuclear outfit and related nonproliferation.

Plutonium pits are nuclear weapon cores or triggers.

In May, the NNSA and U.S. Department of Defense together recommended turning the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility, currently under construction at SRS, into a pit production hub.

The NNSA and DOD jointly suggested producing 50 pits at a transformed MOX facility while producing 30 pits at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, the nation’s plutonium science and production center of excellence.

That momentous tandem task – directly dependent on U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry’s ability to terminate the MOX project – is currently under review and consideration.

On Tuesday morning, SRS manager Michael Budney, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions President Stuart MacVean, Savannah River National Laboratory Director Vahid Majidi and the NNSA’s Savannah River Field Office manager, Nicole Nelson-Jean, welcomed the attendees, according to the meeting itinerary.

At an August dinner forum in Aiken, Nelson-Jean said she hopes the pit mission at the site will start in the “very near future.”

The pit program’s “status” was reviewed Tuesday as was the MOX-specific pit production engineering assessment, according to the itinerary.

Dozens of people were scheduled to tour the MOX facility Tuesday afternoon, according to the same information. A collective overview of SRS and the national lab was provided the same day.

MOX employees have been in contact with the Aiken Standard and have spoken on the condition of anonymity. One MOX worker on Tuesday discussed a tour of the project taking place.

On Wednesday, workshop attendees broke into separate groups to further discuss things, the itinerary reads. At 4:30 p.m., Majidi was scheduled to present at an executive session.

The person familiar with the pit production event said multiple presentations were made over the course of three days.

On Thursday afternoon, according to the itinerary, a “summary of actions” and the “next steps” for pit production were to be discussed.

The pit production program meeting this week echoed a similar get-together at Los Alamos in July, the person familiar said.

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