U.S. fissile material disposition programs in FY2011

According to the FY2011 NNSA budget request, the United States plans to support a range of activities to consolidate and dispose of weapons-related fissile materials.

The key activity of the plutonium disposition part of the Fissile Material Disposition program is the construction at the Savannah River Site (SRS). The facilities being built there are the Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) and the Waste Solidification Building (WSB) to handle waste from the MFFF and pit disassembly operations. MFFF is scheduled to start operations to produce MOX fuel in October 2016 (p. 393).

In addition, the Savannah River Site will host the Pit Disassembly and Conversion Facility in its K-Area Reactor Facility. This project will absorb activities of the Environmental Management's (EM) Plutonium Preparation (PuP) project. This activity is in the design stage (pp. 393, 425).

The feedstock for initial MFFF operations will consist of 2 tonnes of plutonium and of DoE owned depleted uranium. To produce this plutonium, in FY 2011 Los Alamos National Laboratory "will continue to disassemble limited quantities of nuclear weapon pits and convert the resulting plutonium metal into an oxide form." FY2011 activities will also include conversion of depleted uranium hexafluoride to uranium dioxide (p. 397).

The plutonium part of the Fissile Material Disposition program also allocates $113 million toward the activities of the Russian Surplus Fissile Material Disposition program (p. 401).

The U.S. HEU disposition part of the program supports four separate projects: H-Canyon Enriched Uranium (EU) Disposition Project (also known as the TVA HEU Down-blending Project), the 12 MT HEU Blend-Down project, Reliable Fuel Supply, and Research Reactor Fuel (p. 394).

According to the budget request, the TVA HEU Down-blending Project will "continue to down-blend 5.6 tonnes of off-spec HEU at SRS". Down-blending will also continue as part of the Research Reactor Fuel Project, but no numbers are given there. The 12 MT HEU project expects to complete fuel shipments to Nuclear Fuel Services by the end of 2011. The LEU obtained as the result of this project "will create an inventory for potential backup of the MOX Pu Disposition project." (p. 399)

According to the data presented in the request, 127 tonnes of U.S. HEU have been down-blended by the end of FY2009. The plan is to bring this number to 142 tonnes by the end of FY2015 and to 217 tonnes in 2050 (which would complete disposition of the excess HEU) (p. 395).

The FY2011 U.S. HEU disposition program will also include preparations for disposition of additional HEU located at various DoE sites, including Y-12 Complex, Savannah River Site, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Idaho National laboratory, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (p. 399).

It is expected that the material consolidation and disposition efforts will allow to de-inventory Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory of Category I and II materials by the end of FY2012 (p. 158, 274). (Sandia National laboratory was de-inventoried in 2008.)

The Storage program of the Readiness in Technical Base and Facilities program provides support for long-term storage of special nuclear materials at Pantex and of "management and storage of uranium, lithium, and other nuclear and weapons materials, including the nation's strategic reserve of HEU" at the Y-12 Complex (p. 166). (Loading of the HEU Materials Facility at Y-12 began in January 2010.)