Plutomium hearings begin this week in LA

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The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration begins public hearings this week on the Draft Surplus Plutonium Disposition Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (Draft SPD Supplemental EIS).

The first one is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Holiday Inn Express in Los Alamos.

The Draft Supplemental EIS analyzes the potential environmental impacts of alternatives for the disposition of 7.1 metric tons (MT) of additional weapons-usable plutonium from pits that were declared surplus to national defense needs in 2007 but were not included in DOE's prior decisions as well as 6 MT of surplus, weapons-usable non-pit plutonium.

The SPD Supplemental EIS analyzes four alternative disposition pathways: disposition of plutonium using the can-in-canister vitrification approach, involving small cans of material, which would be placed in a rack inside a Defense Waste Processing Facility canister and surrounded with vitrified high-level radioactive waste at the Savannah River Site (SRS); disposition of non-pit plutonium via H-Canyon and DWPF at SRS; disposal of non-pit plutonium at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico; and fabrication of pit and some non-pit plutonium into mixed oxide (MOX) fuel for use in domestic commercial nuclear power reactors.

The SPD Supplemental EIS also includes options for providing a pit disassembly and conversion capability including a stand-alone facility at SRS or installing capability in existing facilities at one or more of the following locations: the Plutonium Facility (PF-4) at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), H Canyon/HB-Line at SRS, K-Area at SRS and the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at SRS. 

The MOX Fuel Alternative is DOE’s preferred alternative for surplus plutonium disposition. DOE’s preferred option for pit disassembly and the conversion of surplus plutonium metal to supply feed for the MFFF, is to use some combination of facilities at PF-4 at LANL, K-Area at SRS, HCanyon/HB-Line at SRS and MFFF at SRS, rather than to construct a new stand-alone facility. This would likely require the installation of additional equipment and other modifications to some of these facilities. 

DOE’s preferred alternative for disposition of surplus plutonium that is not suitable for MOX fuel fabrication is disposal at WIPP in New Mexico.

Another hearing is scheduled Wednesday in Santa Fe at the Courtyard by Marriott. Other hearings are scheduled for Carlsbad; North Augusta, S.C; Chattanooga, Tenn.; and Decatur, Ala.

The 60-day public comment period extends through Sept. 25.