SRNS president will 'push as hard as I can' to meet 2030 target for plutonium pits

·2 min read

Jul. 12—Savannah River Nuclear Solutions President and CEO Stuart MacVean on Monday said he is "going to push as hard as" he can to ensure dozens of nuclear weapon cores can be produced at the Savannah River Site by 2030, a deadline that in recent weeks has proven increasingly challenging.

"If you're going to tell Congress a target, you want to make that target," said MacVean, whose team is spearheading the plutonium pit production effort at the site south of Aiken. "The DOE, at large, has been under scrutiny over the last several years and is doing much better than it did prior, making those targets and schedules."

In an afternoon speech to the Aiken Rotary Club, the CEO said SRS is uniquely qualified to produce the plutonium cores — and that its history proves it.

"What I can tell you is there is no other facility in the country that can do what the military needs done," MacVean said, adding that Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, the other place where the warhead components are slated to be made, "cannot get to the kind of production numbers that they need, which is a total of 80, which is why they've come here."

"We've got a production background, a production mindset," MacVean continued. "It's what we've done for 70 years."

SRS was constructed in the early 1950s to pump out materials for the nation's nuclear arsenal: plutonium and tritium.

A tandem approach to making the plutonium triggers — leveraging both SRS and Los Alamos — was greenlighted by the federal government earlier this year. Los Alamos got the go-ahead in April; Savannah River, in June.

"They're targeting 30 pits by 2026," MacVean said of his Los Alamos counterparts on Monday. "We're targeting 50 pits by 2030."

The plutonium pit factory planned for South Carolina, though, will likely be completed between 2032 and 2035, according to the National Nuclear Security Administration, the Department of Energy agency tasked with maintaining the U.S. nuclear outfit.

Federal law mandates the production of 80 plutonium pits per year by 2030. Delays would necessitate higher rates of production at a higher cost, according to the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, conducted under the Trump administration.

Pit production at SRS has been endorsed by Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and some defense officials, including Gen. John Hyten, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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