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Making US Nuclear Materials More Secure

The new regulations -- if approved -- will include oversight of plutonium (pictured) manufacturing as well as consolidating special nuclear materials throughout the manufacturing complex.
by John C.K. Daly
UPI International Correspondent
Washington (UPI) Oct 20, 2006
The U.S. Department of Energy is preparing to alter its method of securing nuclear materials because of environmental considerations. The Federal Register reported Oct. 19 that the Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration is issuing a "Supplement to the Stockpile Stewardship and Management Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement -- Complex 2030" to analyze the environmental impacts of transforming the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal over the next 24 years.

The program, projected to 2030, derives the 1990s Department of Energy's Stockpile Stewardship and Management, or SSM, Program.

SSM was to sustain public confidence in the safety and reliability of U.S. nuclear weapons after the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty prohibited underground testing.

The current SSM agenda includes the full panoply of activity covering the U.S. nuclear arsenal, including dismantlement, maintenance, evaluation, repair and replacement of weapons in the U.S. nuclear stockpile.

The NNSA proposed agenda seeks not only to continue modernization activities, but to locate and develop a location for a plutonium center for long-term research activity.

The new regulations -- if approved -- will include oversight of plutonium manufacturing as well as consolidating special nuclear materials throughout the manufacturing complex.

A prior Department of Energy review in January 1991 concluded that significant savings that could be accomplished by downsizing the nuclear weapons complex, after which the DOE initiated a programmatic EIS searching for alternatives for reconstituting the complex. Little of note has since been accomplished.

The current U.S. nuclear weapons complex consists of eight major facilities located across seven states.

These include: Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C.; Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas; Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn.; Kansas City Plant in Kansas City, Mo.; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory at Livermore, Calif.; Los Alamos National Laboratory at Los Alamos, N.M.; Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M.; and Nevada Test Site at Las Vegas, Nev.

In other Energy News:

The Dominion Cove Point liquefied natural gas terminal is one of four currently in the United States.

The facility has filed an application to expand its facilities there.

Security analysts note that it is the sole current U.S. LNG facility in close proximity to a nuclear power plant.

The Federal Register reported Oct. 19 that the Department of Energy Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is considering the Dominion Cove Point LNG, LP Notice of Application.

Dominion Cove Point LNG is seeking "authority to construct, install, own, operate and maintain certain facilities at the Cove Point LNG import terminal."

The proposal's details are on file with the Department of Energy Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and open to public inspection, both at DoE facilities and on the Web.

Cove Point LNG proposes that its Post Expansion Send-out Project will add three spare LNG send-out pumps, two auxiliary heaters and related electrical infrastructure improvements at the terminal.

The facility is located in Calvert County, Md.

The LNG terminal facility improvements are costed out at more than $21 million.

Cove Point LNG is seeking that the Department of Energy Federal Energy Regulatory Commission grant the requested authorization as soon as possible in order to ensure the project becoming operational by August 2008.

The Department of Energy Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is currently seeking public input on their environmental review of the project.

Source: United Press International

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