Accession Number : ADA323809

Title :   The Department of Energy's Tritium Production Program. (97002), Congressional Research Service Issue Brief,

Corporate Author : COMMITTEE FOR THE NATIONAL INST FOR THE ENVIRONMENT WASHINGTON DC

Personal Author(s) : Lau, Clifford ; Rowberg, Richard E.

PDF Url : ADA323809

Report Date : 23 JAN 1997

Pagination or Media Count : 14

Abstract : Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen used to enhance the explosive yield of every thermonuclear weapon. Tritium has a radioactive decay rate of 5.5% per year and has not been produced in this country for weapons purposes since 1988 when the K Reactor at Savannah River Site in South Carolina was shut down for safety reasons. To compensate for decay, tritium levels are being maintained in deployed warheads in the near term by recycling and reprocessing tritium recovered from dismantled nuclear weapons. To maintain the nuclear weapons stockpile at the level called for in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) II (not yet in force), however, a new tritium source would be needed by the year 2011. If the higher stockpile levels set by START I remain the target, as is presently the case, tritium production would be needed by 2005. The Department of Energy (DOE) looked at a number of options for a long term tritium source as part of its Stockpile Stewardship and Management program. Following the release in October 1995 of a final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement on Tritium Supply and Recycling, DOE on December 6, 1995, issued a Record of Decision to pursue a dual-track approach to develop the two options it considered most promising. The first is to investigate the purchase of the services of an existing commercial reactor or the reactor itself to supply radiation for transforming lithium into tritium. The second is to design, build, and test a particle accelerator to drive tritium-producing nuclear reactions. The Savannah River Site was selected as the location for an accelerator, should one be built.

Descriptors :   *RECYCLED MATERIALS, *RADIOACTIVE ISOTOPES, *TRITIUM, LITHIUM, RADIOACTIVE DECAY, PARTICLE ACCELERATORS, THERMONUCLEAR REACTIONS.

Subject Categories : Radioactiv, Radioactive Wastes & Fission Prod
      Isotopes

Distribution Statement : APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE