Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League



Part II: The U.S. Plutonium Stockpile

An Update on the Numbers

In 1996 the Department of Energy (DOE) released “Plutonium, The First 50 Years,” in which the U.S. declared it had acquired 111.4 metric tonnes (MT) from four sources:

  • 103.4 MT from government-owned plutonium production reactors (36.1 MT at Savannah River Site (SRS) and 67.3 MT at Hanford);

  • 0.6 MT from government-owned nonproduction reactions;

  • 1.7 MT from commercial U.S. nuclear reactors that was primarily received from West Valley, N.Y. reprocessing plant;

  • 5.7 MT from foreign countries.

The active military plutonium inventory held by DOE and the Department of Defense (DoD) was declared to be 99.6 metric tonnes (MT), broken down into 3 categories.xviii (Table 1-1).

Table 2-1. Declared Inventory, 1996.
Grade % Plutonium-240 Total Pu, Metric Tonnes
Weapons Grade < 7% 85.1
Fuel Grade 7-19% 13.2
Reactor Grade >19% 1.3
Total Plutonium 99.6 MT

This 99.6MT can be further broken down into three major categories: the plutonium in nuclear weapons triggers called plutonium pits, within irradiated nuclear fuel, or in non-pit form..

Table 2-2. Plutonium Inventory.
Category Weapon Grade Fuel Grade Reactor Grade Total
Pits 66.1 0 0 66.1
Irradiated Fuel 0.6 6.6 0.3 7.5
Non-pit 18.4 7.6 0 26.0
Total 85.1 14.5 0.3 99.6

Nonpit plutonium breakdown is based on these three assumptions
(1) Assumes all plutonium in pits are weapon-grade, since U.S. is not known to have developed plutonium weapons from non-weapon grade plutonium (although it did test such weapons).
(2) Assumes that there is no non-surplus plutonium in irradiated fuel.
(3) DOE Plutonium vulnerability report cited 26.0 MT of non-pit Pu in DOE complex.

Noting that due to “rounding” its figures did not always match up, DOE claimed that 12.0 MT of plutonium has been “lost” or sent abroad, so the active inventory is the acquired plutonium minus the following (note that DOE admitted that due to rounding its figures did not always add up):

  • 3.4 MT “expended” in wartime and nuclear weapons testing;

  • 2.8 MT of plutonium DOE cannot account for called “inventory differences;”xix

  • 3.4 MT of plutonium in waste forms described as “normal operating losses.”

  • 1.2 MT of plutonium lost during nuclear reactor operations described as “fission” and “transmutation”;

  • 0.4 MT of plutonium that decayed to Americium 241 and uranium 237.

  • 0.1 MT of plutonium now in the hands of the U.S. civilian industry;

  • 0.7 MT of plutonium sent to foreign countries under “agreements for cooperation,” i.e. the Atoms-For-Peace program;

Changes Since 1996

Last year DOE submitted a report to Congress called the Integrated Nuclear Materials Management Plan. The active inventory declared was the same as that of 1996. This is unlikely to be the case for the following reasons:

1. Contractors operating DOE plutonium sites are required to conduct inventories on all Special Nuclear Materials (SNM) and report updated inventory differences. For example, at Savannah River Site (SRS), the Materials Controls and Accounting (MC&A) department is directed to “reconcile SRS nuclear material records with NMMSS (U.S. Nuclear Materials Management Safeguard System) semiannually” and “provide to OSS (Office of Security and Safeguards) semi-annual reports on statistical analyses of inventory differences.”xx Therefore the Department has updated figures on material-unaccounted-for (MUF), now known as “inventory differences.”
The question that remains is: Does DOE still have 2.8 MT of unaccounted-for plutonium?

2. In response to an investigation by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER), DOE acknowledged there is more buried plutonium waste at Idaho, SRS, RFETS, and Hanford.xxi Therefore, the amount of plutonium in waste is also likely to be higher, which would mean lower inventory differences.

3. DOE has changed how it classifies waste vs. non-waste plutonium,xxii and now appears intent on trying to send as much plutonium as waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico as possible.

4. Plutonium has done nothing but decay the last five years, so more has been lost.

5. Stabilization efforts of non-pit plutonium should have led to better estimates, especially considering the advances in technology for materials accounting.

6. DOE opened a new plutonium storage site, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, in New Mexico; where it intends to bury more than ten metric tonnes of plutonium as waste.

Non-Pit Plutonium

The amount of non-pit plutonium is complicated by several factors:

  • the inherent difficulty of measuring and accounting for plutonium;

  • the fact that many materials with 10-30% plutonium content are poorly characterized;

  • the changes in U.S. policy regarding waste vs. recoverable materials;

  • whether plutonium in pits was a part of the declassified inventory at Rocky Flats and SRS

  • The ownership of the plutonium within the DOE bureaucracy and the lack of final decisions regarding the fate of numerous materials.

Confusion about Nuclear Materials

The flow and storage of SNM [Special Nuclear Material], including tritium, throughout the DOE complex [prior to 1990] was fairly complicated and could be somewhat confusing to the unitiated observer. In fact, it could be somewhat confusing to an experienced observer as well.”
Albert Abey, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. UCRL-ID-111061. 1992.

When Production Stopped

Prior to 1990, when nuclear weapons production was in high gear, “the vast majority of fissile material scrap and materials from retired weapons was recycled. It was less costly to recover fissile materials from high assay scrap and retired weapons than to produce new material. As a result, very little scrap containing fissile material was considered surplus. Consequently, these materials were designated, handled, and packaged for short-term storage.”

In 1989, when the U.S. stopped producing special nuclear materials and numerous facilities were shut down, there was no long-term standard for storing plutonium. In fact, not much thought was even given to storage until it became a problem:

“the halt in weapons production that began in 1989 froze the manufacturing pipeline, leaving it in a state that posed significant risks. High quantities of fissile materials (approximately 13 tons of plutonium metals and oxides, 400,000 liters of plutonium solutions, 130 tons of plutonium residues, HEU, and special isotopes) needed attention.” xxiii

By 1994 DOE had finally developed a standard for long-term storage-up to 50 years-of non-pit plutonium metals and oxides, commonly called the 3013 Standard. However, between 1989 and 1994 DOE made insignificant progress resolving the actual problem.

Change began in April 1994 when the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) issued its first Technical Report. Plutonium Storage Safety at Major Department of Energy Facilities
addressed all unencapsulated, separated plutonium., leaving out plutonium in pits, unirradiated nuclear fuel, and sealed sources. The report chastised the DOE for not clearly recognizing many of the hazards associated with plutonium storage, such as potential fires, explosions, and pressurization of containers.xxiv (Three years later a major chemical explosion forced Hanford to shut down its Plutonium Finishing Plant.)

A month later the Board issued Recommendation 94-1 for this plutonium and other special nuclear materials. At the top of the list of nine recommendations encompassed within 94-1 was the recommendation to:

“convert within two to three years the forms or conditions suitable for safe interim storage. The plan should include a provision that, within a reasonable period of time (such as eight years), all storage of plutonium metal and oxide should be in conformance with the draft DOE Standard on storage of plutonium now being made final.” xxv

Also in 1994 the DOE conducted a detailed plutonium vulnerability investigation and published a landmark document of the results, including the detailing of plutonium holdings down to the gram level at numerous “small holding” sites documenting approximately 26.0 MT of non-pit separated plutonium.. In February 1995, a few months after publishing the vulnerability report, the Department sent its first plan with new plutonium estimates (Table 1-3) for implementing Recommendation 94-1 to the Defense Board, and acknowledged the urgency of the issue:

“The Department acknowledges and shares the Board's concerns and has developed this integrated program plan to address these urgent problems.”xxvi

Table 2-3: Differences in separated, unencapsulated Plutonium Inventory between DOE's Implementation Plan for Recommendation 94-1 and DOE's Plutonium Vulnerability Report
Plutonium Form MT of Pu
94-1 Implementation
MT of Pu
Vulnerability Report
Oxide 6.21 3.3 (1)
Metal 8.95 13.0 (1)
Scrap/Residues 6.34 (2) 8.7
Solutions 0.49 (2) 0.7
Sealed Sources not reported 0.05
Other Forms not reported (3) 0.24
Total 21.7 26.0
(1) These figures included plutonium in unirradiated nuclear fuel.
(2) The actual amount of plutonium by form at SRS was classified in the first 94-1 implementation plan, although DOE reported 2.1 MT at SRS in 1994. Since then DOE has reported 0.490 MT in metals, and DNFSB reported approximately 0.8 MT in oxides and 0.4 MT of in residues at SRS in January, 2001. The estimate for Pu in solutions remains classified, the number in this table is an estimate based on the various numbers reported for SRS and the complex.
(3) Other forms may be encompassed within 94.1, but are not reported.

Not included in DOE's 94-1 implementation plan were 4.4 to 4.6 MT of plutonium in unirradiated fuel:

0.6 MT of plutonium in unused FFTF mixed oxxide fuel clad in 17,000 MOX fuel pins at Hanford;
0.2 MT to 0.4 MT of plutonium in unclad FFTF fuel pellets at Hanford;
0.3 MT of unused ZPPR fuel in 21,000 pins of mixed oxide fuel in Idaho (Figure 2-2)
3.5 MT of unused ZPPR plates within 29,000 plates of metal alloy fuel (Figure 2-3);

This provides more evidence that the 26.0 MT in the vulnerability report at sites other than Pantex was non-pit plutonium and did not include plutonium in pits, meaning that the original inventory at Rocky Flats was closer to 16.0 MT.

Implementation of DOE's nuclear materials stabilization plan has been hindered by several factors, many of them political:

The political decision to "accelerate closure"at Rocky Flats, with an artificial deadline for closing all plutonium facilities by 2006;
The political decision to pursue disposition of surplus plutonium through the "dual-strategy" of both plutonium fuel use and immobilization;
The lack of commitment to safe and secure storage within the Department of Energy;
The issue of who "owns" this plutonium, as it is managed by four DOE departments Offices of Nuclear Energy, Defense Programs, Environmental Management, and Fissile Materials Disposition.
DOE's hopelessly fragmented approach to implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), with the total plutonium program being addressed in several environmental impact statements.
The 3013 standard has changed three times (3013-96, 30-13-99, and 3013-00).
The nature of the materials, especially since the amount of plutonium contained in the complex was minor compared to the total quantities of materials that contained plutonium. (Figure 1-x_) .
In 1999 DOE stopped construction of a cornerstone of its implementation plan, the Actinide Packaging and Stabilization Facility (APSF), leaving a gaping hole in the ground at Savannah River Site where excavation work was almost complete.

The fate of most of these materials remains unclear. One option is to dispose more plutonium as a waste at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico. A more recent scheme proposed by the National Laboratories is to truck hundreds of tonnes of residues to SRS and separate and purify the plutonium. in the SRS canyons. The goal would be to increase-by 6-7 tonnes-:the amount of weapons grade plutonium and improve our negotiating stance with Russia." xxvii

Because of the variations in DOE reporting, the actual inventory remains murky. Following are BREDL's estimates for the total number of items containing plutonium, and the plutonium content within those items.

Figure 2-1. This graphic illustrates the quantity of materials compared to the plutonium in those materials. Much of the non-pit plutonium is not weapons-usable, yet the necessity to stabilize these materials from a health and safety standpoint results in weapons-usable plutonium. Source: DOE/ID-10631, Plutonium Focus Area. 1995.

Plutonium in Solutions

In the plutonium vulnerability report, DOE estimated a total of 700 kilograms (0.7 MT) of plutonium contained in various concentrations within 400,000 liters of solutions with high risks of criticality, explosions, and leaks:

143 kilograms at Rocky Flats
360 kilograms at Hanford
a classified amount--estimated at approximately 200 kilograms--at Savannah River Site;

DOE's contractors have stabilized 90% of the plutonium solutions in terms of total volume, but only about 30 % of the solutions in terms of plutonium content:

43 kilograms of plutonium remains at Rocky Flats in 2,000 liters of solution in piping in 6 facilities;
An estimated 110 kilograms of plutonium remains in H-Canyon at SRS in 34,000 liters of solution;*
341 kilograms of plutonium remains at Hanford's Plutonium Finishing Plant in 4,270 liters of solution
A total of 494 kilograms, or approximately 0.5 MT, of plutonium in 40,270 liters of solutions.

Figure 2-2. Plutonium Ingots.

Plutonium Metal

As of June 2000, DOE reported 8,951.3 kilograms (8.951 MT) of plutonium metal contained in 6,361 items at 9 different sites:

6600 kilograms (6.6 MT) in 3403 containers at Rocky Flats;
700 kilograms (0.7 MT) in 475 containers in Hanford's Plutonium Finishing Plant
1133 kilograms (1.133 MT) in 2060 containers at Los Alamos
490 kilograms (0.49 MT) in 230 containers at SRS
0.45 kilograms (0.00045 MT) in 210 containers at Argonne East National Laboratory in Chicago;
20 kilograms (0.020 MT) in 50 containers at LLNL.
0.855 kilograms (0.00085 MT) in 20 containers at the Mound Plant in Ohio
0.3013 KG (0.0003 MT) in 30 containers at Oak Ridge;
6.7 kg (0.0067 MT) in 5 containers at Sandia National Laboratory. .

About 7.6 MT of this material is considered surplus, based on 28.9 MT of metals declared surplus minus the 21.3 MT of surplus plutonium in pits at Pantex.

1.0 MT of this material is categorized as fuel-grade plutonium. In all likelihood this includes the the 275 plutonium-aluminum alloy items at Hanford.

Table 2.4. Plutonium in Metals

Site Pu Content in Metals, KG # of Pu Metal Items
Rocky Flats






Los Alamos















Oak Ridge









Plutonium Oxide

Figure 2-3. A can of plutonium oxide powder at Rocky Flats.

DOE has approximately 12,540 items of plutonium oxides with greater than 50% plutonium content, for a total of 6.35 MT of plutonium. Virtually none of this plutonium meets the long-term 3013 storage standard:

3,200 kilograms (3.2 MT) of plutonium within 3,296 items content at Rocky Flats;
1,500 kilograms (1.5 MT) of plutonium in 2,800 Pu oxide items and 2,300 plutonium-uranium oxide items at Hanford
800 kilograms (0.8 MT) of plutonium in 800 containers of Pu oxide at SRS;
721 kilograms (0.721 MT) of plutonium in more than 2,000 Pu oxide containers at Los Alamos;
102 kilograms (0.102 MT) in 92 containers at LLNL;
28.1 kilograms (0.0028 MT) in 107 containers at Mound;
1.706 kilograms (0.0017 MT) in 83 containers at Oak Ridge;
1.4 kilograms (0.0014 MT) in 10 containers at Sandia National Laboratory; and
0.014 kilograms in 354 items at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory.

Table 2.5 Plutonium in Oxides


Pu Content, KG

# of Items

Rocky Flats 3200 3296
Hanford 1500 5100
Los Alamos 721 2000
SRS 800 800
Argonne-East 0.48 695
Livermore 102 92
Mound 28 107
Oak Ridge 1.7 83
Sandia 1.4 10
Lawrence-Berkeley 0.014 354
Total 6355 12537

Plutonium in Unirradiated Nuclear Fuel

Figure 2-4. 21,000 ZPPR Fuel Pins like the one pictured here are stored at Argonne National Laboratory West, Idaho and contain a reported 0.3 MT of fuel-grade plutonium mixed with uranium oxide to make Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel.

As of June 2000, DOE had more than 50,000 items of clad, unused, unirradiated fuel containing a total of 4.4 to 4.6 MT of plutonium.

DOE's Office of Nuclear Energy retains control this plutonium. Until November 1999, the ZPPR fuels (Figures 2-4, 2-5) and FFTF Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel (not pictured) were scheduled to be processed at the Plutonium Immobilization Plant at Savannah River Site. This idea was withdrawn in November 1999.

Figure 2-5. ZPPR Fuel Plates. 22,000 of these plates containing a reported 3.5 MT of plutonium are presently stored at Argonne National Laboratory-West within the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory. The ZPPR fuel contains varying percentages of uranium and plutonium alloyed with either aluminum or molybdenum to make a material that is resistant to oxidation. Some plates are coated with nickel to increase the resistance to oxidation. Source: UCRL-ID-131608, Rev. 3, PIP-00-035

Processing 50,000 pieces of old unused fuel with high concentrations of americium-241 necessitated planning for remotely controlled processing of these materials. Plans for dealing with such highly radioactive materials greatly contributed to increased costs of a plutonium immobilization plant.

The cost of abandoning this path has not been determined. DOE is now considering calling the ZPPR fuel a "national asset material" but has yet to determine a future use.

Plutonium Residues

Residues is a catch all phrase for "material containing plutonium that was generated during the separation and purification of plutonium or during the manufacture of plutonium-bearing components for nuclear weapons."xxix In 1990 these materials were assumed to have enough plutonium remaining to be recoverable for future operations. Today, the plutonium cannot be used in weapons without substantial processing and purification and it is mostly being treated as waste.

Residues currently consist of an estimated 6.350 MT of plutonium in 29,530 items:

3000 kilograms (3.0 MT) in 20,532 items totaling more than 100 metric tonnes of materials in Buildings 371 and 707 at Rocky Flats, of which nearly 10,000 items remain to be stabilized;
1,500 MT in 1300 containers at Hanford;
1,400 kg in nearly 6,000 items at LANL;
400 kilograms of plutonium in 1306 items of miscellaneous residues in the F-Area at the Savannah River Site;
35 kilograms in 202 items at LLNL;(114 cans of ash)
3 kilograms in 39 items at Mound;
less than 1 kilogram in 12 items at Argonne East;
0.1 kg in 12 items at Oak Ridge;
less than 1 kg in 250 items at Lawrence Berkeley;

This is the least certain and most poorly defined of all categories for the following reasons:

1. With a few exceptions, this should be categorized as plutonium waste by U.S. standards, since DOE intends to "dilute" most of the residues to attain less than 10% plutonium by weight and therefore meet WIPP acceptance criteria. The desire to "bury" nearly 7 MT of plutonium that would be recycled under Russian policy clearly undermines claims made by U.S. plutonium fuel advocates that Russia opposes the U.S. burying plutonium, and therefore the U.S. must pursue the MOX plutonium fuel option.

2. Decommissioning of plutonium facilities across the nuclear weapons complex will result in more plutonium wastes. This is because the category called "holdup"-plutonium in pipes, glove boxes, ductwork, etc-has never been quantified and is considered part of the unaccounted-for plutonium.

3. A recent proposal by DOE and its labs, called the 2025 vision, holds open the prospects of processing much of the residues at the canyons at SRS in order to increase weapons grade plutonium inventories.

Table 2-6. Plutonium in Residues

Plutonium in Residues


Pu Content, KG

# of Items

Rocky Flats 3000 20532
Hanford 1500 1313
Los Alamos 1400 5900
SRS 400 1270
Argonne-East 0 12
Livermore 35 202
Mound 3 39
Oak Ridge 12 12
Sandia 0 0
Lawrence-Berkeley 0 250
Total 6350 29530

Plutonium in Waste:

In 1996 DOE estimated 3.4 MT of plutonium as "lost" through normal operations and categorized as plutonium wastes (not including plutonium released through smokestacks or in wastewater either routinely or by accident) that are buried or stored at 8 sites:

1.522 MT buried or stored at Hanford;
1.108 MT buried or stored at Idaho National Engineering Laboratory; with 0.002 MT of this credited to ANLW;
0.610 MT buried or stored at Los Alamos;
0.575 MT buried or stored at SRS;
0.047 MT buried or stored at Rocky Flats;
0.016 MT stored at Nevada Test Site from past nuclear weapons accidents;

U.S. Surplus Plutonium

U.S. surplus plutonium figures have changed substantially, although these changes are obscured by unclear management plans. In 1996 the U.S. declared 38.2 MT of weapon-grade plutonium to be surplus. The common belief is that the U.S. has 50 metric tonnes of surplus plutonium, but at no time did the U.S. declare an active inventory of 50 metric tonnes of weapons-usable plutonium.

2.1 MT of the non-pit weapon-grade plutonium is estimated to be nonsurplus based on the following:

DOE declared 21.3 MT of plutonium at Pantex to be surplus, leaving 44.8 MT of plutonium in pit form as stockpile plutonium;
DOE declared 38.2 MT of weapon-grade plutonium to be surplus, leaving 46.9 MT of weapon-grade plutonium as nonsurplus;

The Nominal 50 MT

This confusion is a function of DOE planning efforts. The Office of Fissile Materials Disposition spent five years conducting environmental impact statements (EIS) on the plutonium disposition options. The EIS processes consistently used 50.0 metric tonnes of surplus plutonium as a "nominal planning figure,"xxxi broken down as:

31.8 MT of "clean metal," mostly plutonium contained in weapon components (pits), designated to the MOX route;
18.2 MT of plutonium contained in an array of forms considered physically unsuitable or economically unfeasible to separate and purify for use in MOX and designated for the immobilization disposition route.

Figure 2-6. Projected Feed for Plutonium Disposition.

Several assumptions lie within the "nominal planning figures (figure 2-6):

materials will be pre-processed before the disposition steps begin. In other words, the planning figures are based on expected conditions, not real conditions.
included was 7.0 MT of metals "anticipated" to be surplus if START II induced more weapons dismantlement;
not included was the 7.5 MT of plutonium in irradiated fuel.

The Real Surplus

DOE did report approximately 52.5 metric tonnes (MT) of surplus plutonium (see Table 1-5) that included:

38.2 MT of weapons-grade plutonium and 14.3 MT of fuel-grade plutonium.
A net amount of surplus weapons-usable plutonium in the existing inventory of 43.0 MT.xxxii

The 9.5 MT of plutonium not weapons-usable in its present state, broken down as:

7.5 MT of plutonium contained in irradiated mixed-oxide (MOX) and metal alloy fuel that already met the spent fuel standard.
2.0 MT of material commonly known as "residues" with low concentrations of plutonium for "which extraction of plutonium would not be practical and which is expected to be processed and repackaged for disposal as TRU [transuranic] waste" at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.

The Changing Surplus

The following changes have occurred since the surplus inventory was announced:

1. There is now 3.0 MT of plutonium in residues scheduled for disposal at WIPP and this material is identified as weapon-grade plutonium.. The addition of 1.0 MT to this route occurred when DOE rescinded its decision to send 1.0 MT of plutonium in Rocky Flats "Sands, Slags, and Crucibles" to the reprocessing canyons at SRS.

2. In 1997 Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory reported only 51.3 MT as the "latest estimate"xxxiii of surplus plutonium within a table identical to one in 1997,xxxiv with the difference being the removal of 1.2 MT of plutonium in the following forms:

0.8 tonnes of fuel-grade plutonium in irradiated fuel;
0.2 MT tonnes of fuel-grade plutonium in unirradiated reactor fuel;
0.1 MT of fuel-grade plutonium oxide;
0.1 MT of weapon-grade plutonium metal;

The reasons for this change are unknown and have not been explained by DOE. However, in 1998 plutonium pits were reclassified (see Part 3) and some surplus pits were reidentified as "national assets." Also, in 1998 Los Alamos received "permission from the politicians" to divert some "nickel-sized" pieces of plutonium from its pit disassembly and conversion "disposition" demonstration project to its nuclear weapons program for plutonium aging studies.xxxv

3. In November 1999, prior to issuing a Record of Decision on the SPDEIS in January 2000, but after finishing the final SPDEIS, DOE removed the unirradiated ZPPR fuel plates and oxides pins from the surplus inventory and declared it "Programmatic Use material."xxxvi DOE failed to mention this change in its Record of Decision and apparently did not inform the designers of the Immobilization Facility until after January 1, 2000.xxxvii

In June 2000 DOE submitted its Integrated Nuclear Materials to Congress in which they described an active surplus plutonium inventory of 52.5 MT but added the disclaimer that "a majority of the excess, approximately 48 MT, has no programmatic use." DOE then described how it removed more than 4 MT from the surplus inventory:

"A small portion of the 52.5 MT supports programmatic uses such as basic scientific research, criticality research, and production of medical isotopes. Most of this is in the form of fuel for the Zero Power Physics Reactor (ZPPR) and Fast Flux Test Facility (FFTF)."

"The Department is now considering retaining the ZPPR fuel as a national resource at ANL-W. The Department is currently preparing a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) (DOE, 1999i) to consider the potential impacts of expanded nuclear facilities to accommodate new civilian nuclear energy research and development efforts and isotope production missions, including the role of the FFTF."xxxviii

Table 2-3 of this document identifies the ZPPR fuel as "in storage pending future use."

The U.S. Russian Agreement

Adding to the confusion is the U.S./Russian bilateral plutonium disposition agreement signed on September 1, 2000. Plutonium "disposition" is a catchphrase for putting plutonium in a highly irradiated storage environment. Instead of 50 MT to be "disposed," the agreement calls for only disposing 34.5 MT. DOE has continued to incorrectly declare 52.5 MT of surplus plutonium in the active inventory (see Figures 2-7 and 2-8 on following page).

One unfortunate consistency in plutonium management has been overlapping and poorly integrated bureaucracies. DOE's Office of Fissile Materials Disposition (OFMD) and the Office of Environmental Management (EM) have never presented a cohesive plan for managing non-pit plutonium to the public, and they can't seem to agree on the numbers:

EM incorrectly described the 14.3 MT of non-weapon grade plutonium as "non-weapon-capable" even though DOE defines weapons-usable as "all plutonium except that present in spent [irradiated] fuel and plutonium which contains greater than 10% plutonium 238."xxxix
Although WIPP was never said to be part of the fissile materials disposition program in terms of surplus plutonium, both parties show 3.1 MT of weapons-grade plutonium being disposed of at WIPP. OFMD's chart states the material will be "diluted in waste" and sent to WIPP; whereas the EM chart simply shows this waste being sent to WIPP;
EM inaccurately claimed that 4.8 MT of reactor fuel was surplus.

Table 2.7. Non-pit Plutonium Inventory
Plutonium Form

# Items

Plutonium Content, MT

Metals 6,361 8.59
Oxides 12,537 6.35
Residues 29,530 6.35
Unirradiated Fuel 52,000 4.6
Total 100,528 25.9

Figure 2-7. Office of Fissile Materials Disposition

Figure 2-8. Office of Environmental Management.

Table 2-8. DOE's Variety of Surplus Plutonium Numbers


DOE's Official Estimate of
Surplus Pu




"Planning" Estimate of Surplus Pu Total **

Amount for Disposition under U.S./Russia Agreement





(1) 36.2








Reactor Fuel






Irradiated Fuel






Other Forms












*Metal includes plutonium in pits, ingots, and buttons; Oxide refers to plutonium oxide, reactor fuel refers to prepared but unused MOX fuel, metal-alloy fuel elements, pellets, and MOX powder; and "other forms" refers to uranium/plutonium oxides and "residues" from the fabrication of weapon components.
(1) This includes 7.0 MT "that may be declared surplus in the future."(2) In 1997 DOE reported that 0.223 MT of plutonium/uranium fuel material that had not been fabricated into finished fuel components is part of the 4.8 MT total of unirradiated fuel and therefore accounted for an additional 0.2 MT of reactor fuel in the planned category; xl

Table 2-9. BREDL's Estimate of Active U.S. Plutonium Stockpile


BREDL's Current Estimate of Surplus Pu

Total *

Stockpile Pu

wg fg  

Amount for Disposition under U.S./Russia Agreement

Metal in Pits

21.2 0 21.2 44.9 0 44.9 21.2

Clean Metal












Impure Metal

2.8 1.0 3.87 0 0 0 2.8

Reactor Fuel

0 0.0 0.0 0.2 4.2 4.4 0.0

Irradiated Fuel

0.6 6.1 6.7 0 0.8 0.8 0.0


6.5 0.7 7.2 0 0 0 0.4


37.9 9.4 47.3 47.2 5.0 52.2 31.8

Nuclear Site Total Plutonium Inventory, in Metric Tonnes (1.1 English Ton = 1.0 metric tonne) and
by material
Metal Oxide Residues Solutions Reactor Fuel Irradiated Fuel Total

Hanford (1)
























SRS (2)
















LANL (4)








LLNL (5)
























(1) DOE reported 11.0 MT in 1996. The plutonium in solutions may be double counted.
(2) Does not reflect plutonium received from Rocky Flats, which could bring total as high as 2.5 MT.
(3) This is total plutonium at Pantex plus in weapons stored or deployed. There are 12,000+ plutonium pits presently in storage, with approximate on-site inventory of 35 to 40 MT. The total inventory of plutonium in pits has probably been reduced by up to 0.5 MT due to stockpile surveillance and pit disassembly and conversation demonstration project at Los Alamos.
(4) Does not reflect the plutonium Los Alamos has from Rocky Flats and from Pantex.
(5) Probably reflects plutonium shipped from Rocky Flats.
(6) 1,200 plutonium pits were transferred to Pantex with no decrease in inventory means that plutonium in pits were not part of declassified inventory at RFETS. 0.1 MT of Pu in solutions were converted to oxides, not reflected here.
(7) Higher total may mean that plutonium in solutions is double counted and reported as oxide or metal by DOE. Other sites include Sandia, Oak Ridge, Mound, Argonne-East, and Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, and amount to <0.1 MT.