Nuclear mattersNNSA ships more high-risk nuclear material out of Livermore

Published 13 February 2009

Latest shipment reduces high-security nuclear material onsite by an additional 20 percent; part of the government’s plan to consolidate nuclear materials at five sites by 2012, with significantly reduced square footage at those sites by 2017

A small step toward improved nuclear safety in the United States. The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced that over 55 percent of the plutonium and uranium materials stored at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California have been relocated.  The material was moved to the Savannah River site in South Carolina and the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, under high security. “This latest shipment reduces the inventory of special nuclear material at Livermore Laboratory by an additional 20 percent for a total reduction of 55 percent since 2006,” said NNSA administrator Thomas D’Agostino. “We continue to do these shipments safely and securely and have accelerated this project by two years. We are well on our way to keeping our commitment to the Livermore community and the nation as a whole.”

The shipment is part of NNSA’s plan to remove high-security nuclear material from LLNL by 2012. This is the seventh shipment to leave LLNL since the de-inventory project was initiated.

NNSA said that as part of its Complex Transformation, it plans to consolidate nuclear materials at five sites by 2012, with significantly reduced square footage at those sites by 2017. This will further improve security and reduce security costs and is part of NNSA’s overall effort to transform the cold war- era nuclear weapons complex into a twenty-first century nuclear security enterprise. The latest shipment from LLNL was completed in full compliance with existing safety and environmental laws and procedures.

Materials must be processed to stable forms and repackaged to meet federal shipping and storage requirements prior to shipment. The original date to remove all high-security material from LLNL, based on equipment capability and capacity, was 2014. NNSA has developed a timeline to remove this material as early as possible, accelerating the target completion date to 2012. To reach this goal, NNSA is installing extra equipment to increase capacity.

Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science in the U.S. national security enterprise. NNSA’s task is to maintain and enhance the safety, security, reliability, and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; reduces the global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.