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NNSA Announces H-Canyon to Support Plutonium Disposition at the Savannah River Site

October 31, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC: The National Nuclear
Security Administration (NNSA) this week approved the use of the H-Canyon
Complex to provide approximately 3.7 MT of plutonium oxide feed for the MOX
Fuel Fabrication Facility from the non-pit plutonium currently stored at
Savannah River Site (SRS). The use of the H-Canyon Complex will result in the
retention of approximately 90 high-quality jobs in South Carolina, and
demonstrates NNSA’s commitment to remove plutonium from the state.

“This joint effort between NNSA and DOE’s Office of Environmental Management
helps us implement President Obama’s nuclear security agenda while keeping 90
high-quality jobs in South Carolina,” said Administrator Thomas
D’Agostino.  “This decision will help us dispose of surplus weapons-grade
plutonium while also investing in our current infrastructure at the Savannah
River Site.”

 H-Canyon and
HB-Line will initiate start-up preparations for plutonium oxide production in
FY 2012.  In its next full year of operation, it is estimated that
H-Canyon will produce approximately 200 kg of plutonium oxide, and ramp up to a
full production rate of up to 1 MT per year in FY 2015.

NNSA’s Office of Defense Nuclear
Nonproliferation will fund the incremental operating cost to perform this work
and has identified the estimated $20.5 million per year of funds needed in FY
2012. This decision will result in a cost-effective approach for producing
plutonium oxide for the MOX Facility that utilizes current resources and
capabilities.

 Through the Plutonium Management and
Disposition Agreement (PMDA), the U.S. and Russia have agreed to each dispose
of at least 34 metric tons of surplus weapon-grade plutonium, enough material
for approximately 17,000 nuclear weapons.  To implement plutonium disposition
in the United States, NNSA is building the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility to
fabricate the plutonium feedstock into MOX fuel. A fact sheet on NNSA’s
plutonium disposition program is available online.

H Canyon, located at SRS, is the only
hardened nuclear chemical separations plant still in operation in the United
States.  A fact sheet on H-Canyon is also available online.

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Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is
a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for
enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science
in the nation’s national security enterprise. NNSA maintains and enhances the
safety, security, reliability, and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons
stockpile without nuclear testing; reduces the global danger from weapons of
mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion;
and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.