The National Nuclear Security Administration announced on Monday its massive plutonium pit production project at the Savannah River Site in Aiken County, South Carolina, had received the green light, teeing up South Carolina for a continued long-term role in the modernization of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
The Savannah River Plutonium Processing Facility – where dozens of nuclear weapon cores, known as pits, are expected to be produced – will cost between $6.9 billion and $11.1 billion and will likely be realized between 2032 and 2035.
The U.S. lost the capability to produce plutonium pits for its nuclear weapons stockpile in 1989 after a raid by the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigating alleged environmental crimes at the Rocky Flats Plant near Denver, Colorado. At that time, the Rocky Flats Plant was the stockpile plutonium pit production facility for the American nuclear weapons complex. Although the US Department of Energy (DOE) repeatedly tried to restart pit production at Rocky Flats, it never succeeded in doing so.
Source: NWNM | U.S. Plutonium Pit Manufacturing
The Energy Department’s cost to build the infrastructure to produce new plutonium cores for U.S. nuclear warheads could be as high as $18 billion, according to a department estimate and yet-to-be-released internal estimates detailed to Arms Control Today by a congressional source.
The updated price tag is nearly two and half times larger than earlier projections and is likely to raise fresh doubts about the affordability of the department’s aggressive plans to sustain and modernize U.S. nuclear warheads and their supporting infrastructure.