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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 41, November 1999

US DOE Study on Plutonium Disposition Options

On mid-November, the US Energy Department published a report into the options under consideration for disposing of America's gargantuan stockpile of surplus weapon-grade plutonium. The report was summarised in a November 12 Department statement:

"The...Department...this week released to the public the 'Surplus Plutonium Disposition Final Environmental Impact Statement' that analyzes the potential impacts of alternatives for the disposition of up to 50 metric tons of plutonium surplus to the United States' defence needs. The document also identifies the Department's Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C. [South Carolina], as the predicted location for building three key plutonium disposition facilities.

'Completion of this environmental review is an important step in assuring the safe and secure disposition of US and Russian surplus plutonium,' said Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson. 'The US and Russia are close to reaching an agreement to put our surplus plutonium into forms which can never be used for nuclear weapons.'

The Department's strategy for disposing of surplus plutonium involves two methods: approximately 17 metric tons will be immobilized in ceramic material surrounded by vitrified high-level waste and up to 33 metric tons will be irradiated as mixed oxide (MOX) fuel in existing domestic, commercial reactors. ..."

Note: the full report is available on the Internet at http://www.doe-md.com

Report: Energy Department releases study of alternatives for siting of plutonium disposition facilities, US Energy Department Press Release R-99-303, November 12.

© 1999 The Acronym Institute.

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