The plan to dilute and dispose of the 9.5 metric tons of plutonium remaining at the Savannah River Site may be ahead of schedule.
Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, the manager and operator of the site located 20 miles south of Aiken, exceeded its plutonium downblending goal for the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Downblending, also known as dilute and dispose, is the process chosen by the DOE's Office of Environmental Management in 2016 to dispose of 6 metric tons of plutonium oxide stored at SRS.
In 2020, the National Nuclear Security Administration announced its plans to use the same process to dispose of an additional 7.1 metric tons (some of which is likely stored elsewhere). The process takes place in the K-Area Complex of SRS.
Lee Sims, K-Area Complex facility manager for SRNS, said exceeding the goal was a testament to his team's commitment to safe, efficient and secure operations.
“Much of our work in the past few years has been to introduce efficiencies and speed up our processing rates," Sims said. "This shows that our efforts are working.”
The news release adds the team processed plutonium oxide with a wide variation of content, presenting unique challenges.
“K Area’s accomplishment is more impressive considering the nature of the packaging and risks associated with some of the materials we downblended this year,” Sims said. “Exceeding projected processing rates while handling a variety of materials for the first time builds a great foundation for the program moving forward.”