Frank Von Hippel: The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the organization within the Energy Department that is responsible for producing and maintaining US nuclear warheads, is moving forward with a plan to build a plutonium-pit-production factory at DOE’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina. “Pits” are the form of the plutonium in the fission trigger “primaries” of US two-stage nuclear warheads. The primary motivation for this move is lack of confidence in the pit-production capacity at Los Alamos National Laboratory, which has been responsible for preserving US pit production expertise since production at the Rocky Flats Plant outside of Denver shut down at the end of the Cold War. There are also political motivations, including filling the jobs gap at the Savannah River Site resulting from the collapse of NNSA’s effort to build a Mixed-oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility there to process some of its excess Cold War plutonium pits into power reactor fuel.
Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 12th June 2020 read more »