Tracking highly enriched uranium and plutonium, the key nuclear weapon materials

Tritium production and recovery in the United States in FY2011

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According to the plan outlined in the NNSA FY2011 budget request, in 2011 the United Sates will continue its Tritium Readiness program, which involves irradiation of Tritium-Producing Burnable Absorber Rods (TPBARs) in the Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA) Watts Bar nuclear reactor. Also, there are plans to use TVA's Sequoyah Plant Unit 1 and 2 reactors to produce tritium. Sequoyah Unit 1 is expected to be ready to receive TPBARs in FY2012 (p. 146). These activities are part of the Tritium Readiness program of the Readiness Campaign.

In FY2009, the Tritium Readiness program extracted tritium from 240 Cycle 8 TPBARs at the Tritium Extraction Facility, completed irradiation of 368 TPBARs in Cycle 9, and fabricated 240 TPBARs for the Watt Bar Cycle 10 irradiation campaign (p. 143).

The Material Recycle and Recovery program will continue support of the SRS Tritium Extraction Facility. Activities there include "recovery and purification of tritium, deuterium, and helium-3 gases from reservoir recycle gas, hydride storage vessels, and facility effluent cleanup systems. Gas mixtures are enriched to support the LEP and Stockpile Services goals" (p. 165). It was reported earlier that these activities have resulted in an about 25 percent increase of the amount of tritium compared to 2008.

UPDATE 02/06/10: Local press reports on the tritium production: Feb 3, Feb 4.

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