Department of Defense (DoD), DoE FACILITIES, Federation of American Scientists, Nuclear Materials, Nuclear power, Nuclear Weapons, Plutonium, PLUTONIUM INVENTORY, Plutonium Isotope, U.S. Department of Energy, Uranium
…And these atomic bombs which science burst upon the world that night were strange even to the men who used them. – H. G. Wells, The World Set Free 1914
Over the 50 year history of the U.S. plutonium programs, there have been many different facilities involved in the production, processing, and utilization of U.S. plutonium. DOE-owned plants and equipment include reactors for the production of plutonium, isotopes and other reactor products; facilities for the fabrication and testing of weapons; reactors for testing materials and equipment components; reactor prototypes; and research laboratories.
Figure 2 is a map showing the location of the Department’s plutonium facilities mentioned in this report.
Significant amounts of information concerning plutonium have been declassified. The following are examples of information declassified since 1993 concerning U.S. plutonium inventory data.
• The total and annual quantities of plutonium produced at the Hanford Site.
• The total and annual quantities of weapon grade plutonium produced at the Savannah River Site.
• Plutonium produced at Government-owned nonproduction reactors.
• The approximate total quantity of plutonium at Savannah River after August 1988.
• The United States total production of weapon grade plutonium.
• Current total plutonium inventories at DOE sites, excluding the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas.
• Current and historical inventory differences for plutonium in the DOE complex.
• Total quantity of plutonium expended in all U.S. nuclear tests including wartime detonations, nuclear weapons tests, and peaceful nuclear explosions.
• Quantity of weapon grade plutonium involved in fires at the Rocky Flats Plant in 1957 and 1969.
For greater specifics on declassified information, refer to Drawing Back the Curtain of Secrecy, Restricted Data Declassification Policy, 1946 to the Present, RDD-1, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Declassification, June 1, 1994.
SUMMARY OF NEWLY RELEASED DATA
The following is a summary of newly declassified information being released by this report.
• Total DOE/DoD plutonium inventory.
• Combined DOE/DoD plutonium inventory at the Pantex Site, near Amarillo, Texas, and in the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.
• Total plutonium received by barter from the United Kingdom (U.K.) under the 1958 U.S. and U.K. Mutual Defense Agreement.
• Total quantities of tritium and enriched uranium transferred to the United Kingdom by barter under Mutual Defense Agreements.
In addition, this report also summarizes 50 years of unclassified information including the following:
• Total plutonium received from other countries under bilateral agreements for international cooperation in the peaceful uses of atomic energy.
• Total plutonium transferred or sold to other countries under bilateral agreements for international cooperation in the peaceful uses of atomic energy.
• Total plutonium received from U.S. civilian industry including separated plutonium from the Nuclear Fuels Services facility located near West Valley, New York.
• Total plutonium transferred to U.S. industry.
• Total plutonium in waste as identified in NMMSS
Plutonium is a silvery, metallic radioactive element with an atomic number of 94. Although found naturally in trace quantities in uranium ores, plutonium is abundantly produced in reactors by neutron bombardment of uranium. Plutonium has 15 isotopes [note 6] ranging from Pu-232 to Pu-246 and half-lives [note 7] from 20 minutes to 76 million years. The NMMSS tracks plutonium in three distinct categories, Plutonium, Plutonium-238, and Plutonium-242.
• Plutonium, sometimes referred to as Plutonium-239, is the most common plutonium isotope and is capable of sustaining a nuclear chain reaction and is used in nuclear weapons and for nuclear power production.
• Plutonium-238 [note 8] is used in general purpose heat sources and radio isotope thermoelectric generators to produce electricity in spacecraft and is not addressed in this report.
• Plutonium-242 [note 9] is used as target material for the production of other nuclear materials, and in nuclear physics research and is not addressed in this report.
Plutonium is identified as either weapon grade, fuel grade, or power reactor grade based on the percentage of Plutonium-240 that is contained in the plutonium. Weapon grade plutonium contains less than 7 percent Pu-240. Fuel grade plutonium contains from 7 percent to less than 19 percent Pu-240, and power reactor grade contains from 19 percent and greater Pu-240.
The U.S. plutonium inventory is composed of 85.0 MT of weapon grade, 13.2 MT of fuel grade, and 1.3 MT of reactor grade (Figure 3).
Of the 85.0 MT of weapon grade plutonium, 38.2 MT have been declared excess to national security needs. The composition and location of this 38.2 MT can be found in Appendix A.
Figure 4 shows the location of the DOE/DoD 99.5 MT of plutonium as of September 30, 1994. In addition to the eight sites identified in Figure 4, DOE plutonium is also located at other DOE sites, primarily at the West Valley Demonstration Project located near Buffalo, New York. Small quantities are also located in foreign countries, and at NRC licensees. Plutonium in waste (e.g., in cribs, tanks, settling ponds, and waste disposal facilities) is not considered part of the DOE/DoD inventory, and is therefore not included in the 99.5 MT.
Most of the plutonium in waste — technically “normal operating losses” — has been removed from DOE/DoD inventory that requires safeguards and security. While this report refers to normal operating losses as waste, not all plutonium in waste is necessarily derived from normal operating losses. Other plutonium in DOE waste can be accounted for “as accidental losses,” “approved write-offs,” and inventory differences. In addition, some plutonium in waste has been received from sources outside of DOE.
The data used to prepare this section were obtained primarily from the Department’s nuclear material control and accountability system. The plutonium acquisition and removal categories used in this report contain the following elements:
• Plutonium acquisitions are divided into four distinct categories: plutonium produced in government production reactors; plutonium produced in government nonproduction reactors; plutonium acquired from U.S. civilian industry; and plutonium acquired from foreign countries.
• Plutonium removals are divided into seven categories: plutonium expended in wartime and nuclear tests; plutonium inventory differences; plutonium waste; plutonium expended in fission and transmutation; plutonium lost to decay and other removals; plutonium transferred to U.S. Civilian industry; and plutonium transferred to “foreign countries.”
Table 1. Plutonium Material Balance
|Government Production Reactors||103.4 [note 11]|
|Government Nonproduction Reactors||0.6|
|U.S. Civilian Industry||1.7|
|Expended in Wartime and Tests||3.4|
|Waste (Normal Operating Losses)||3.4|
|Fission and Transmutation||1.2|
|Decay and Other Removals||0.4|
|U.S. Civilian Industry||0.1|
|Classified Transactions & Rounding||0.1|
As shown in Table 1, the U.S. Government produced and acquired from 1944 to September 1994 a total of 111.4 metric tons of plutonium. During the same period of time, 12.0 MT of plutonium was removed resulting in an actual ending inventory of 99.5 MT [note 10].
Tracking highly enriched uranium and plutonium, the key nuclear weapon materials
U.S. Civilian Plutonium Holdings in December 2012
The United States finally submitted to IAEA the INFCIRC/549 declaration of its civilian plutonium stock. The document was published by the IAEA on April 2, 2014 as INFCIRC/549/Add.6/16. According to IAEA, the United States submitted its declaration to the Agency on March 14, 2014, much later than usual.
According to the declaration, as of 31 December 2012 the United States had 44.4 tonnes of separated plutonium described as “held elsewhere”, 4.6 tonnes – in unirradiated MOX fuel, and less than 0.05 tonnes – held in the fuel fabrication process. In December 2011 these numbers were 44.7, 4.6, and 0.05 tonnes respectively.
The declaration contains the following note:
Lines 3 [4.6] and 4 [44.4] together list 49.0 metric tons of separated plutonium that has been declared as excess to national security needs. This, in addition to 7.8 metric tons of the plutonium included on lines 1 [plutonium contained in spent fuel at civil reactor sites] and 3 [plutonium contained in spent fuel held elsewhere] of Annex C, 4.5 metric tons that has been disposed to waste after termination of safeguards, and 0.2 metric tons lost to radioactive decay (both after September 1994), constitute the total of 61.5 metric tons of government owned plutonium that the United States has declared as excess to national security needs. The change in Line 4 includes the (rounded) cumulative allowance for decay and an additional 0.1 metric tons disposed to waste during 2012.
The total amount of plutonium declared excess – 61.5 tonnes – has not changed since the 2011 declaration. However, the breakdown of this number is now different. The amount of plutonium disposed of as waste increased from 4.4 to 4.5 tonnes. Also, since 1994 0.2 tonnes was lost to radioactive decay. This decay and disposal of plutonium as waste are responsible for the decrease of the amount of separated plutonium from 44.7 to 44.4 tonnes.
The actual amount of separated plutonium that is excess to security needs is therefore 56.8 tonnes – 61.5 tonnes minus 0.2 tonnes lost to decay since 1994 and 4.5 tonnes disposed as waste and lost to decay in 2012.
- New agreement signed to advance Areva reprocessing project in China
- United States and Japan to remove plutonium and HEU from Fast Critical Assembly
- Sweden wants to transfer ownership of 834 kg of separated plutonium to the United Kingdom
- United States puts MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility on cold standby
- GLE will apply for license to build laser enrichment facility in Paducah
- Further increase in the cost of U.S. plutonium disposition program
- China calls on Japan to return weapons grade plutonium to the United States
- U.K. plutonium re-use policy slammed in House of Commons report
- Possible changes in U.S. and Russian excess plutonium disposition programs
- Dangerous Discrepancies: Missing Weapons Plutonium in Los …
- Covert mission: Plutonium source might be Canada via Ottawa