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Audit Report: OAS-L-14-01

November 18, 2013

Management of Tritium within the National Nuclear Security Administration

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is responsible for producing tritium, a key component necessary for maintaining the Nation's nuclear weapons stockpile.  NNSA's nuclear weapons Readiness Campaign coordinates with the Department of Defense to determine stockpile requirements and provide annual updates on tritium production and inventory status.  The Tritium Readiness subprogram provides the capability for producing tritium needed for the Nation's nuclear weapons mission.

Based on our review, we determined that NNSA is effectively managing tritium supplies to meet nuclear weapons needs.  NNSA currently maintains tritium supply levels slightly above demand levels and projects that future supplies will be maintained at similar levels.  At the time of our review, NNSA had developed plans to increase the number of tritium-producing burnable absorber rods (TPBARs) irradiated per reactor cycle as the demand for tritium increases.  NNSA plans called for a steady increase in the number of TPBARs irradiated per reactor cycle to a maximum of 2,000 TPBARs in 1 reactor.  Should future demands require more than 2,500 TPBARs per reactor cycle, Tennessee Valley Authority will have to use more than 1 reactor to irradiate the TPBARs.

While NNSA is effectively managing tritium supplies to meet nuclear weapons needs in the near term, we found that several key actions should be completed to ensure that future tritium supplies are not disrupted.  We provided suggested actions to ensure the long-term supply of tritium for the Nation's nuclear weapons mission. 

Topic: Management & Administration