U.S. Releases Updated Plutonium Inventory Report

NNSA News:

Plutonium pellet. Courtesy photo

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced Friday the public release of a report that details the current plutonium inventory of the U.S.

Titled The United States Plutonium Balance, 1944-2009, the document serves as an update to Plutonium: the First 50 Years, which was first released by the Department of Energy (DOE) in 1996.

The report provides the U.S. inventory of plutonium owned by DOE and includes material in the possession of the Department of Defense (DoD).

It can be found online at http://nnsa.energy.gov/plutoniuminventory.

As an update to the report released in 1996, the current document provides data on the plutonium inventory through 2009.

The four most significant changes since 1994 include:

  • the completion of clean-up activities at the Rocky Flats Plant in Colorado in 2005;
  • material consolidation and disposition activities;
  • 2007 declaration of an additional 9.0 MT of surplus weapons-grade plutonium; and
  • the opening of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico.

The updated report does not account for highly enriched uranium (HEU), planned disposition activities at the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility, or material obtained through President Obama’s four year plan to secure vulnerable nuclear material around the globe.

“The public release of the U.S. plutonium inventory is a demonstration of our commitment to transparency whenever possible,” NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino said. “As the United States moved into the 21st Century, our nuclear security footprint changed, and our nonproliferation goals evolved. The updated inventory is a reflection of that transition and an important gesture of openness to the international community.”

The report contains important revisions to previously reported data. The most significant revisions include increases in waste estimates for DOE sites in both Washington and Idaho, based on improvements in waste characterization and reviews of historical records.

Key elements of the report include:

  • The plutonium inventory, maintained under nuclear material control and accountability, is 95.4 MT, a 4.1 MT decrease to the 1994 inventory. The most important factor for the reduction in inventory was the reclassification of process residues originally set aside for plutonium recovery as waste. Of the 4.1 MT reduction, 85 percent came from Rocky Flats residues sent to WIPP for disposition;
  • The cumulative inventory difference for accountable plutonium is 2.4 MT, a 0.4 MT decrease to the 2.8 MT made public in the 1996 plutonium report. The 0.4 MT decrease in the cumulative inventory difference is attributed to materials recovered during de-inventorying and closure activities at Rocky Flats and the Hanford Site in Washington.
  • Plutonium surplus to defense needs is now 43.4 MT, a 5.2 MT increase to the 1994 declaration; and
  • The plutonium estimated in waste is 9.7 MT, a 5.8 MT increase to the 1994 inventory of 3.9 MT. The increase is attributed to: 4.4 MT in new discards from the accountable inventory; 0.8 MT increase in Rocky Flats solid waste generated prior to 1970; 0.4 MT increase in Hanford high level waste tank estimates; 0.1 MT in solid waste at a commercial low-level radioactive disposal facility not included in the 1996 report,and 0.1 MT from other sites.

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