Updated: 10/01/98

October 1, 1998

Gary Pitchford, DOE/Chicago, 630/252-2013
Chris Kielich, DOE/HQ, 202/586-5806

Energy Department to Fund Design of Facility to Disassemble and Convert Nuclear Weapons Plutonium Pits for Disposal

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has begun contract negotiations with Raytheon Engineers & Constructor, Inc. of Englewood, Colorado for the preliminary and detailed design of a Pit Disassembly and Conversion Facility (PDCF). DOE hopes to complete negotiations with the architect-engineering firm and award the contract by the end of 1998. The total value of the contract is expected to be in excess of 40 million dollars over a period of two and one half years.

The Pit Disassembly and Conversion Facility is a key component of the Administration's effort to dispose of surplus weapons plutonium. In January 1997 the Energy Department announced a strategy that allows for immobilization of surplus plutonium in glass or ceramic forms as well as the use of some surplus plutonium as mixed oxide (MOX) fuel in existing reactors.

The PDCF will provide material for both the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility and Immobilization Facility. The facility will disassemble excess nuclear weapons pits, remove the weapons-usable plutonium metal, and convert it into a form suitable for disposal. It will also accept excess weapons usable plutonium metal from other sources for conversion. The final form of converted material will contain no weapons design or other classified information in order to permit the resulting materials to be placed under international controls.
In June 1998, the Energy Department announced that DOE's Savannah River Site in South Carolina and its Pantex Plant in Texas were equally preferred locations for the Pit Disassembly and Conversion Facility.

The Department expects to select a final site preference between the two sites in conjunction with the completion of the Final Environmenal Impact Statement. Construction of the PDCF is anticipated to begin in 2001 and be completed by mid-2004. The facility is planned to be operated for ten years and then be decontaminated and decommissioned.-

- DOE -