United States begins shipments of plutonium from Savannah River to WIPP

The U.S. Department of Energy completed the first shipment of weapon-grade plutonium from the Savannah River Site (SRS) to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico. The shipment, which took place on August 16, 2012, reportedly included 5 kg of plutonium mixed with inert material and packaged into 35 shipping drums. An earlier report quoted an SRS representative as saying that the total amount of plutonium that SRS has  prepared for shipment to WIPP is 585 kg. Potentially, SRS would be ready to ship 4.3 tonnes (4.7 tonnes according to other sources) of the plutonium to WIPP over the course of 20 years.

The SRS representative described the material that is being sent to WIPP as "material with no recoverable value, not suitable for MOX." While it is a weapon-grade material, it has never been used in weapon components.

In disposing weapon-grade plutonium from SRS as waste DoE effectively abandoned the "spent fuel standard" for plutonium disposition - the material sent to WIPP is not protected by a radiation barrier.

The Savannah River Site currently holds 13.1 tonnes of weapon-grade plutonium that will be disposed. As of 2009, 8.8 tonnes of this material was plutonium declared excess for military needs.