34 metric tons of material in program was previously intended for the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility
The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) published a Notice of Intent in the Federal Register Dec. 16 to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program (SPDP), which would dilute and dispose of 34 metric tons of material using the capabilities at multiple sites across the Nation.
The EIS will meet NNSA’s obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) as the agency seeks to fulfill two important goals:
- Reduce the threat of nuclear weapons proliferation worldwide by dispositioning surplus plutonium in the United States in a safe and secure manner, ensuring that it can never again be readily used in nuclear weapons.
- Meet NNSA’s obligation to the State of South Carolina to securely process and remove plutonium from the State.
To allow the public an opportunity to comment on the proposed scope of the EIS, there will be a public scoping period from Dec. 16, 2020, to Feb. 1, 2021, including a telephone- and internet-based virtual public scoping meeting in early 2021. During the meeting NNSA will welcome public input on the scope of the EIS and any reasonable alternatives. The public will also have the opportunity to submit written comments. Information about the public scoping meeting will be posted on the NNSA NEPA reading room webpage at least 15 days before the meeting.
Following the scoping period, NNSA will prepare a draft EIS for the program, which will be announced in the Federal Register and local media outlets to invite further public comment on that document before preparing a final EIS. That will be followed by a Record of Decision (ROD), which officially documents and explains the agency’s decision.
The 34 metric tons of material covered by the EIS was previously intended for disposition in the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (also known as MOX) at the Savannah River Site (SRS). That project was canceled in 2019.
NNSA’s preferred alternative, the dilute and dispose approach, also known as “plutonium downblending,” includes converting pit and non-pit plutonium to oxide, blending the oxidized plutonium with an adulterant, and emplacing the resulting transuranic waste underground in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). The approach will require new, modified, or existing capabilities at SRS, Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Pantex Plant, and WIPP. The SPDP EIS will also analyze the No Action Alternative and any other viable alternatives that may arise from public scoping.