US begins shipping excess plutonium to WIPP for disposition

In December 2022 US Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration and Office of Environmental Management completed the first shipment of plutonium from the K-Area of the Savannah River Site to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Mew Mexico. The amount of material in the shipment was not disclosed.

The shipment begins the implementation of the DoE "dilute and dispose" program. The program, approved in 2016, is authorized to dispose up to six tons of excess plutonium that is stored at the Savannah River Site in oxide by mixing it with an engineering substance, known as "stardust," and placing it in WIPP. In the FY2021 budget request, US administration envisioned that plutonium will be disposed at a rate of about 1.5 tons a year. For FY2022, Congress approved the request of $156 million to build glovebox capacity at SRS.

In December 2016, then U.S. Secretary of Energy announced that the United States will begin consultations with the IAEA "to monitor the dilution and packaging of up to six metric tons of surplus plutonium at the Savannah River Site." However, there are no indications that the IAEA was involved in the December 2023 shipment.