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H Canyon gets temporary mission that will retain 90 SRS jobs

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Savannah River Site’s H Canyon chemical separations area was given its first new mission Monday – and $20.5 million per year in funding – for a special contract to make plutonium oxide to help the government’s MOX fuel project get started in 2016.

The project, announced by the Na­tion­al Nuclear Security Administra­tion, will enable the site to retain 90 jobs at H Canyon that otherwise would be in jeopardy because of the government’s decision to scale down operations at the facility and maintain it in “safe standby mode.”

“This is good news,” said Jim Giusti, a U.S. Department of Energy spokesman. “This funding allows us to stabilize the workforce and retain 90 jobs that were in question.”

The three-year project would provide up to 3.7 metric tons of feedstock for the mixed oxide fuel facility, which will blend plutonium from dismantled warheads with uranium to make fuel rods suitable for use in commercial power reactors.

Though the MOX plant’s main mission is to dispose of 34 metric tons of plutonium from “pits” taken from bombs, the initial feedstock to be made at H Canyon will come from nonpit plutonium already at the site.

The H Canyon mission calls for producing 200 kilograms of plutonium oxide in the first year of the project, with a peak production rate of
1 metric ton per year thereafter. The $20.5 million-per-year funding would be maintained for three years.

The use of H Canyon for initial MOX plant feedstock will not eliminate the need for a separate “pit disassembly and conversion” plant that will provide the bulk of the plutonium.

The government initially planned to build a freestanding facility for that operation and later considered the use of existing buildings at
K Area.

The delay in a final decision led congressional critics to question whether the MOX plant might be completed on schedule but have to sit idle because there would not be raw materials needed for full operation.

“This will help cover them until a disassembly and conversion process is established, or other means are established to feed the MOX plant to keep it operational,” Giusti said.

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SCEagle Eye
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SCEagle Eye 10/31/11 - 01:36 pm
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The problem with having

The problem with having enough plutonium feed for the MOX plant is the least of DOE's worries. They don't have any reactors lined up to use MOX and two of the four reactors they are looking at for MOX use are of the GE Mark I Fukushima design (TVA's Browns Ferry). MOX testing in those dangerous clunkers will take up to 10 years, throwing the MOX plant production schedule into total chaos.

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