More radio-active plutonium headed our way?
By Jerry Bellune
Federal and state officials will announce today a settlement to remove plutonium from the Savannah River Site.
A local public interest group, Savannah River Site Watch, urges caution in what will be said by US Department of Energy and SC officials at the state capitol in Columbia.
Plutonium-removal plans have been anticipated for years at the site 45 minutes from Lexington.
Many SRS workers live in and commute from Lexington County every day,
DOE won’t mention plans to bring in a massive amount of plutonium, said SRS Watch Director Tom Clements.
This includes 35 metric tons of plutonium for processing as waste or for making plutonium “pits” for nuclear warheads.
Clements has been tracking DOE’s problem-plagued plutonium disposition efforts since 1994.
11.5 metric tons of plutonium are stored in the old K-Reactor at SRS now, Clements said.
DOE had planned to blend 6 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium with a secret, inert ingredient known as “stardust” for disposal .
Last Friday, DOE issued a decision to downblend another 7.1 metric tons of plutonium for disposal in New Mexico.
“While today’s announcement may sound good, SRS lacks downblending capacity and there is no schedule for the removal of the plutonium,” Clements said.
“DOE must immediately reveal the detailed plan for processing of the material and its removal from SRS and reveal plans for future plutonium import.
"Absolutely no more plutonium must be brought into South Carolina until every gram now at the site has been removed.
“Behind-the-scenes plan to bring a massive amount of plutonium must be fully revealed and explained.
“As DOE plans to dispose of 34 metric tons of plutonium as waste, approximately 27 more tons of plutonium would be brought in the state for downblending.
"As DOE is pursuing an unjustified Plutonium Bomb Plant at SRS to make pits for nuclear weapons, that facility would require about 7.5 metric tons or more of plutonium to make about 2500 pits.
"Though it’s a startling amount, it appears DOE has quietly developed plans to bring an additional 35 metric tons of plutonium into South Carolina, some of which could end up being stranded here as we saw with the failed MOX project,” said Clements.
“It is imperative that DOE immediately present a timetable for plutonium shipments to SRS, shipments out of the site and reveal where all this plutonium would be purified prior to processing at SRS.”
SRS Watch has called for Programmatic Environmental Impact Statements on the plutonium disposition and pit fabrication projects. Those documents would analyze all DOE system-wide environmental and health impacts, the need for the projects and let South Carolinians know details about DOE’s plan to import a massive amount of plutonium to SRS.
SRS operated 5 nuclear reactors from the early-1950s to the med-1980s.
That produced about 36 metric tons of weapon-grade plutonium.