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02/15/2012
 

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Nuclear Materials Management

Nuclear Materials Management (NMM) operations provide an interim storage location for much of the United States’ excess plutonium.

In the coming decade, new plutonium disposition facilities are slated to be built at SRS, under a Record of Decision issued by the Department of Energy in 2000. This makes SRS the nation’s cornerstone of excess plutonium disposition.

As these new facilities await approval for construction, NMM has provided the opportunity to the DOE Complex to save millions of taxpayer dollars during the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site De-inventory program by receiving and providing safe and secure storage of its plutonium material. Millions more will be saved as Flour Hanford and other sites are eventually permitted to ship their inventories to SRS.

Using an A-Frame lifting hoist to safely relocate 9975s in the K Area Material Storage Facility.
Using an A-Frame lifting hoist to safely relocate 9975s in the K Area Material Storage Facility.

Nuclear Materials Management has two facilities designated for extended safe storage of plutonium at SRS; the K Area Material Storage (KAMS) facility, located in 105-K, and the 235-F facility. The 105-K building formerly housed K Reactor, which produced nuclear materials to support the United States during the Cold War for nearly four decades. It was the United States’ last operating production reactor, shutting down for the last time in 1992. The 105-K facility was chosen as the most recent DOE Complex plutonium storage facility for several reasons:

  • The facility underwent stringent, well-documented earthquake and structural upgrades during the restart campaign of the early 1990s.
  • It is a robust building, constructed of concrete walls many feet thick.
  • Much of the security infrastructure was already in place.
  • Necessary modifications were relatively minor, compared to the cost benefit.

 

 

105-K building, formerly K Reactor
105-K building, formerly K Reactor

The plutonium shipped to KAMS is sealed inside a safety-class welded 3013 container that is nested in robust, state-of-the-art, 9975 shipping containers. Prior to being packaged at the other sites, the plutonium is stabilized in accordance with established standards for safe storage. The plutonium will remain sealed inside the nested package as long as it is in KAMS.

The material being shipped to KAMS is sealed inside special containers that will be nested in robust, state-of-the-art, shipping containers. In its history of service, 235-F, built in the mid-1950s, housed various Special Nuclear Materials missions including plutonium storage, shipping and handling; billet production for reactor target fabrication and Pu-238 fuel cell production for space missions.

Facility infrastructure and security upgrade projects are underway in both facilities to ensure safe plutonium storage until a final disposition path for the material is determined.

A shipment of low enriched uranium (LEU) departs SRS.
A shipment of low enriched uranium (LEU) departs SRS.

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