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Nuclear Nonproliferation

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Nuclear Non-Proliferation

"and they shall beat their swords into plowshares..."
Isaiah 2:4

The Pit Disassembly and Conversion Project (PDCP) and the Waste Solidification Building (WSB) in concert with the Mixed Oxide Program (MOX) represent the culmination of an ambitious “Swords to Plowshares” initiative designed to convert weapons-grade plutonium to commercial reactor fuel.

The conversion of plutonium used in nuclear weapons begins with the removal of the plutonium pit, which is the heart of the nuclear weapon. Once removed, the pit is transported to the Pit Disassembly and Conversion (PDC) facility, cut in half, and through a thermal process, is converted to plutonium oxide. The oxide form of plutonium is not combustible and therefore is safer to handle. The plutonium oxide is then transferred to the Mixed Oxide (MOX) facility where it is down-blended with uranium oxide (thus the term mixed oxide or MOX) into pellets used in reactor fuel rods. The Waste Solidification Building (WSB) manages the liquid waste generated by the PDC and MOX facilities, converting it to a solid form suitable for long term disposal.

Once incorporated in fuel rods and burned in the reactor, the mixed oxide is either entirely consumed or rendered useless for weapons. The spent fuel is then managed as any other spent reactor fuel.

MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility Administration Building
MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility Administration Building

This complex initiative is supported by Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, the company responsible for the PDC and WSB facilities, and Shaw AREVA, the company constructing the MOX facility.

arrow Convert 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium to reactor fuel
arrow Eliminate the vulnerabilities of long-term storage
arrow Demonstrate the country’s commitment to nonproliferation
arrow Dispose of the plutonium in an environmental and economically responsible manner
arrow Complete the project on schedule and within budget
arrow Operate in a safe and environmentally sound manner

The pit, the path and the product illustration

The process of converting plutonium "pits" into commercial reactor grade mixed oxide fuel

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