The State, Columbia, South Carolina, January 27, 2019 print edition
SC, Savannah River Site needs to stay out of the nuclear weapons business SRS doesn’t need to be generating more nuclear waste
Savannah River Site Watch factsheet on “pits” – this is mainly for an informed audience, for DC lobbying and meetings this week – I’ll do a more basic one soon.
Obstacles and Concerns Related to “Repurposing” of the Abandoned
Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) at DOE’s Savannah River Site (SRS)
to Production of Plutonium Pits for Nuclear Weapons

Bombs in Our Front Yard: Savannah River Site’s Key Role in US Nuclear Weapons

Savannah River Site, a 310-square-mile facility located near rural Aiken, is a key nuclear weapons and nuclear waste storage and processing facility, which few in South Carolina understand. SRS produced about 36 metric tons of weapon-grade plutonium, in five nuclear reactors, for US nuclear weapons, and currently stores 13 metric tons of plutonium.  Just a few kilograms of plutonium is enough to form the explosive core used in all US nuclear weapons. Additionally, SRS processes all the radioactive tritium gas used in US nuclear weapons, a material used to boost the explosive power of the weapons.

Efforts must be increased to stop more plutonium and nuclear waste imports to SRS and to convert the site to cleaner uses. About $9 billion of the Department of Energy budget goes to nuclear weapons nationwide and $6 billion to nuclear waste “clean-up,” both making up almost half the department’s budget. Estimates to “clean up” this waste range up to $100+ billion. The annual budget for all activities at SRS is about $2 billion, so Aiken, SC/Augusta, GA is somewhat dependent on SRS and local politicians are fiercely loyal to big-spending projects at SRS.

Another facility located near Columbia, SC also plays a key role in US nuclear weapons. That secret facility, operated by WesDyne, a subsidiary of Westinghouse, is located in the Westinghouse uranium fuel plant on Bluff Road just outside of Columbia. The WesDyne facility fabricates the rods – called Tritium Producing Burnable Absorbed Rods (TPBARs) – that are
shipped to the Watts Bar reactor to produce tritium gas for nuclear weapons. Those highly radioactive rods are removed from the reactor and shipped back to the Savannah River Site for processing, with by-product nuclear waste being stored at SRS. See this article for more info.

Find out more about SRS here.

Other Resources

Chart courtesy of

U.S. Nuclear Weapons Budget: An Overview
Nuclear ban treaty negotiations in 2017

Be sure to attend our Nagasaki Day on Aug 9th with Dan Zak to discuss this in more detail.