Reading Room

Community Forum on New Plutonium "Pit" Plan

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Posted by Marylia Kelley

The controversial proposal by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to expand production of plutonium "pits" - the core of all nuclear weapons - will be the subject of a public forum in Aiken, South Carolina near the Savannah River Site, which is targeted for a new bomb plant that would produce 50 or more plutonium pits per year.

The forum will be held on Friday, June 14, 2019. The event is free and open to all members of the public.

In response to DOE's lack of public engagement about the proposal and its potential environmental and health impacts, three public interest groups that work on DOE and nuclear weapons issues have taken the initiative on the matter. The sponsoring groups are Savannah River Site Watch, Columbia, SC; Tri-Valley CAREs, Livermore, CA; and, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, in Santa Fe.

The proposal by DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration would conduct pit production at the Savannah River Site into the shuttered MOX plant at a rate of 50 per year - a totally new and unproven mission for SRS. The plan would also expand pit production at the Los Alamos National Lab to 30 or more pits per year. This would raise production limits from the current rate of 20 per year at Los Alamos to 80 or more per year.

Expanded pit production is intended for a new warhead under development at Livermore Lab. The warhead used to be called the "Interoperable Warhead 1" and has been recently renamed the W87-1 by NNSA. It is a replacement for the land-based W78, which presently sits atop ICBMs.

The role of new warheads and expanded pit production in stimulating a global arms race will be addressed at the forum alongside the pit plan's myriad financial, environmental and health risks.

For those unable to attend in person, here are presentation slides from the three organizations. Also included below are two of the source documents presented by Marylia Kelley alongside her slide presentation.

CLICK HERE for slides from Tom Clements (SRS Watch).

CLICK HERE for slides from Jay Coghlan (NWNM).

CLICK HERE for slides from Marylia Kelley (Tri-Valley CAREs).

CLICK HERE for an article on pit "aging" (by LLNL).

CLICK HERE for the summary of a classified report by the Institute Defense Analyses (for DoD).