Los Alamos repackages Russian-origin plutonium-238

According to a report in Albuquerque Journal (see the Global Security Network story), the Los Alamos National Laboratory has repackaged Russian-origin plutonium to address potential safety issues identified by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board in April 2009. The procedure involved placing original 160 containers that contain plutonium into sturdier U.S.-designed containers. 

The report did not mention that the material in question is Pu-238, a non-fissile isotope of plutonium used primarily in radioisotope thermal generators that power deep space missions (see the 2009 National Research Council report on the issue). 

The United States is no longer producing the isotope. In 1992, Russia agreed to sell the United States about 30 kg of Pu-238 at the reported cost of $6 million. About 20 kg of this material is believed to have been delivered. Apparently, this is the material that was handled at Los Alamos. In 2009, Russia notified the United States that it could not deliver the remaining material. As a result, DoE initiated a program to reestablish domestic production of the isotope. The Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) at Idaho National Laboratory and the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory were identified as reactors that can produce Pu-238.