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DOE to Prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for Proposed Surplus Plutonium Disposition at the Savannah River Site

March 23, 2007 - 12:10pm

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WASHINGTON, DC - The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) this week sent to the Federal Register a notice announcing that it will evaluate the potential environmental impacts of proposed plutonium disposition capabilities at the Savannah River Site (SRS) near Aiken, South Carolina.  DOE has previously studied alternative technologies for stabilizing plutonium at SRS and will prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that identifies a plutonium vitrification facility and use of H-Canyon as the preferred alternatives for surplus plutonium not planned for conversion to mixed oxide fuel.

"The Department is committed to preparing our surplus plutonium, that is currently stored at the Savannah River site, for disposal in a safe and environmentally responsible manner," Assistant Secretary of Energy for Environmental Management James Rispoli said. "This analysis will evaluate the potential use of a plutonium vitrification facility and use of our H-Canyon facility to stabilize plutonium and therefore reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation."

For the proposed plutonium vitrification facility, DOE will evaluate stabilizing up to 13 metric tons of plutonium that are not planned for use through the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MOX).  The proposed plutonium vitrification facility would stabilize this plutonium material in a lanthanide borosilicate glass inside stainless steel cans that would then be placed within larger canisters to be filled with vitrified high-level radioactive waste in the Defense Waste Processing Facility (DWPF) at SRS for eventual disposal in a permanent geological repository.  For H-Canyon, DOE will evaluate processing of plutonium bearing materials through the DWPF.

This Supplemental EIS, which the Department will prepare, builds on the Department's current proposed approach for plutonium disposition at the Savannah River site.  Through the MOX project, the proposed Plutonium Vitrification Facility, and operations of H-Canyon, the Department has identified a proposed path for plutonium materials currently located at SRS.   This Supplemental EIS will also evaluate the proposed disposition of plutonium materials that may be brought to SRS for consolidated storage from Hanford in Washington, Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.  Evaluation of potential consolidation of these materials will be subject to a separate environmental analysis.

DOE will hold public meetings on April 17, 2007, in Aiken, SC, and on April 19, 2007, in Columbia, SC, and accept comments for 60 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register (expected early next week).  More information on these meetings and on the Department's Notice to Prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement will be posted at http://www.eh.doe.gov/nepa/.

Media contact(s):

Megan Barnett, (202) 586-4940
James Giusti, (803) 952-7697

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