[Federal Register Volume 67, Number 76 (Friday, April 19, 2002)]
[Pages 19432-19435]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 02-9658]



Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program

AGENCY: Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration.

ACTION: Amended Record of Decision.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security 
Administration (DOE/NNSA) is amending the Records of Decision (RODs) 
for the Storage and Disposition of Weapons-Usable Fissile Materials 
Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (Storage and 
Disposition PEIS) and Surplus Plutonium Disposition Environmental 
Impact Statement (SPD EIS). Specifically, DOE/NNSA is announcing the 
following three revisions to the decisions contained in those RODs: (1) 
Cancellation of the immobilization portion of the disposition 
strategies announced in those RODs due to budgetary constraints, (2) 
selection of the alternative of immediate implementation of 
consolidated long-term storage at the Savannah River Site (SRS) of 
surplus non-pit plutonium now stored separately at the Rocky Flats 
Environmental Technology Site (RFETS) and SRS, and (3) adjustment in 
the manner in which surplus plutonium pits will be stored at the Pantex 
Plant (Pantex). Cancellation of the immobilization facility and 
selection of this storage alternative remove the basis for the 
contingency contained in previous RODs conditioning transport of non-
pit surplus plutonium from RFETS to SRS for storage on the selection of 
SRS as the site for the immobilization facilities, and those RODs are 
so amended. DOE will notify the Congress and consult with the Governor 
of South Carolina before shipping plutonium to SRS, in accordance with 
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2002.
    Under this amended ROD, DOE/NNSA will continue to store surplus 
plutonium pits at Pantex in the facility where they are currently 
located rather than transfer the pits to a different facility at the 
same site, as announced in the Storage and Disposition PEIS ROD.
    In response to a statutory directive, DOE/NNSA has submitted to 
Congress a report on a strategy for the disposal of surplus plutonium 
currently located at, or to be shipped to SRS. That strategy involves 
converting this plutonium to a mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel and irradiating 
it in commercial power reactors. DOE/NNSA is currently evaluating the 
changes to the MOX fuel portion of the surplus plutonium disposition 
program necessitated by this strategy, including the need for 
additional environmental reviews pursuant to the National Environmental 
Policy Act (NEPA). No final decisions regarding the MOX portion of the 
program will be made until these reviews are completed.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For further information concerning the 
disposition of surplus plutonium or this amended ROD, contact Hitesh 
Nigam, Deputy NEPA Compliance Officer, Office of Fissile Materials 
Disposition, National Nuclear Security Administration, 1000 
Independence Avenue, SW, Washington DC, 20585, 800-820-5134. Additional 
information regarding the DOE/NNSA Fissile Materials Disposition 
Program is available on the Internet at http://www.doe-md.com (when 
    For further information concerning DOE's NEPA process, contact: Ms. 
Carol Borgstrom, Director, Office of NEPA Policy and Compliance (EH-
42), U.S. Department of Energy, 1000 Independence Avenue, SW, 
Washington, DC 20585. Telephone (202) 586-4600, or leave a message at 
    Additional information regarding the DOE NEPA process and 
activities is also available on the Internet through the NEPA home page 
at http://tis.eh.doe.gov/nepa.


I. Background

A. Historical Context for the Decisions on the Plutonium Storage and 
Disposition Program Announced in This Amended ROD

    The end of the Cold War created a legacy of surplus weapons-usable 
fissile materials in both the United States and Russia. The United 
States and Russia have been working together to reduce

[[Page 19433]]

the threat of nuclear weapons proliferation worldwide by implementing 
programs for dispositioning surplus plutonium in a safe, secure, 
environmentally acceptable, and timely manner. Russia and the United 
States have issued numerous statements and agreements to this effect 
since the mid-1990's. The most recent is the Agreement between the 
Government of the United States of America and the Government of the 
Russian Federation Concerning the Management and Disposition of 
Plutonium Designated as No Longer Required for Defense Purposes and 
Related Cooperation signed in September, 2000. This agreement provides 
that the United States and Russia will each dispose of 34 t of 
``weapons-grade'' plutonium, and allows for disposition either by 
immobilization, or by MOX fuel fabrication and subsequent irradiation. 
One purpose of DOE/NNSA's Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program is to 
help implement this agreement.
    However, in addition to achieving the ultimate goal of permanent 
disposition of surplus plutonium materials, DOE independently needs to 
improve the configuration of the storage system for these materials, 
pending disposition. These improvements will allow DOE to significantly 
reduce storage costs, expedite closure and cleanup of sites and 
facilities in its nuclear complex, and enhance the security of these 
    DOE's Office of Fissile Materials Disposition (now part of NNSA) 
has prepared a number of NEPA documents regarding the United States' 
Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program. The Storage and Disposition PEIS 
(DOE/EIS-0229, December 1996) evaluated alternative strategies and 
locations both for long-term storage (up to 50 years) and for 
disposition of weapons-usable fissile materials. Among the alternatives 
analyzed in that PEIS was consolidated long-term storage at each of 
four candidate sites.
    The SPD EIS (DOE/EIS-0283, November 1999), which tiered from the 
Storage and Disposition PEIS, evaluated site-specific alternatives for 
the construction and operation of three facilities for disposition of 
up to 50 t \1\ of surplus weapons-usable \2\ (weapons-grade \3\ and 
non-weapons-grade) plutonium. These three facilities would have 
performed, respectively, pit disassembly and conversion, plutonium 
immobilization, and MOX fuel fabrication. The SPD EIS also evaluated 
the use of six domestic commercial reactors for irradiation of MOX 

    \1\ To accommodate the potential declaration of additional 
surplus materials in the future.
    \2\ Weapons-usable plutonium is plutonium in forms (e.g., metals 
or oxides) that can be readily converted for use in nuclear weapons. 
Weapons-grade, fuel-grade and power reactor-grade plutonium are all 
    \3\ Weapons-grade plutonium is plutonium with an isotopic ratio 
of plutonium 240 to plutonium 239 of no more than 0.10.

B. Previous Decisions on the Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program

     In the initial ROD for the Storage and Disposition PEIS 
(62 FR 3014, January 21, 1997), DOE made two sets of decisions, one 
addressed to disposition of surplus plutonium and one addressed to 
storage of this material. With regard to disposition, DOE determined, 
consistent with the Preferred Alternative analyzed in the Storage and 
Disposition PEIS, to pursue a hybrid approach that would have allowed 
for the immobilization of surplus plutonium for eventual disposal in a 
geologic repository pursuant to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, and use 
of MOX fuel in existing, domestic, commercial reactors, with subsequent 
disposal of the spent fuel in a geologic repository. This hybrid 
approach was selected to provide insurance against technical or 
institutional uncertainties that could arise from a single-technology 
approach for disposition. DOE selected this approach for the increased 
flexibility it provided by ensuring that plutonium disposition could 
still be initiated promptly should one of the approaches ultimately 
fail or be delayed. In selecting the hybrid approach, DOE established a 
means for expeditious plutonium disposition that provided the basis for 
an international cooperative effort to achieve reciprocal, irreversible 
plutonium disposition actions by Russia.
    In addition, with regard to storage, DOE decided in the January 21, 
1997 ROD to reduce the number of locations where the various forms of 
surplus plutonium were stored. To accomplish this, DOE decided to move 
surplus plutonium from RFETS as soon as possible, transporting pits to 
Pantex beginning in 1997. Non-pit plutonium materials would be 
separated and stabilized, and then transported to SRS. The January 21, 
1997 ROD made transport of non-pit surplus plutonium materials from the 
RFETS to SRS contingent on DOE selecting SRS as the site for the 
immobilization facility in a subsequent ROD. After transport, the non-
pit materials would be stored at SRS in a new facility, the Actinide 
Packaging and Storage Facility (APSF), pending disposition.
    DOE further decided in the January 21, 1997 ROD to upgrade storage 
facilities in Zone 12 South at Pantex (to be completed by 2004) to 
store surplus pits already stored at Pantex and surplus pits from 
RFETS, pending disposition. Storage facilities in Zone 4 at Pantex 
would continue to be used for these pits prior to completion of the 
Zone 12 upgrade.
     To support early closure of RFETS, DOE subsequently issued 
an amended ROD for the Storage and Disposition PEIS (63 FR 43386, 
August 13, 1998) that revised some of these decisions. The amended ROD 
announced DOE's decision to accelerate shipment of all non-pit surplus 
plutonium from RFETS to SRS beginning in 2000, provided, again, that 
SRS was selected as the immobilization site. To accommodate the early 
receipt and storage of RFETS surplus plutonium (i.e., before completion 
of the APSF), DOE decided to undertake modifications to Building 105-K 
in the K-Area at SRS (also known as the K-Area Materials Storage [KAMS] 
facility). Before issuing the amended ROD, DOE prepared a Supplement 
Analysis (SA) pursuant to DOE procedures implementing the National 
Environmental Policy Act (10 CFR 1021.314), Supplement Analysis for 
Storing Plutonium in the Actinide Packaging and Storage Facility and 
Building 105-K at the Savannah River Site, (DOE/EIS-0229-SA1). On the 
basis of that SA, DOE concluded that storage in KAMS would not result 
in a substantial change in environmental concerns compared to storage 
in APSF.
     In the ROD for the SPD EIS (65 FR 1608, January 11, 2000), 
DOE decided to implement the hybrid approach for the disposition of up 
to 50 t of surplus plutonium (by fabricating up to 33 t into MOX fuel 
and immobilizing approximately 17 t), as described in the Preferred 
Alternative in the SPD EIS. SRS was selected as the location for all 
three disposition facilities: A pit disassembly and conversion facility 
(pit conversion facility), a plutonium immobilization facility, and a 
MOX facility.
     In an Amended ROD (66 FR 7888, January 26, 2001) for the 
EIS on Interim Management of Nuclear Materials (October 1995, DOE/EIS-
0220), DOE canceled construction of the APSF because of cost growth and 
resource limitations. It was decided to use existing facilities for 
storing surplus plutonium at SRS.

[[Page 19434]]

II. Need To Change Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program

A. Immobilization

    The initial Storage and Disposition PEIS ROD noted that ``the 
timing and extent to which either or both of these disposition 
approaches (immobilization or MOX) are ultimately deployed will depend 
upon the results of future technology development and demonstrations, 
follow-on (tiered) site-specific environmental review, contract 
negotiations, and detailed cost reviews, as well as nonproliferation 
considerations, and agreements with Russia and other nations.'' In 
2001, the schedule for design, construction and operation of the 
plutonium immobilization facility was delayed indefinitely due to 
budgetary constraints. DOE/NNSA is now canceling the immobilization 
program, including the immobilization facility.
    DOE/NNSA has evaluated its ability to continue implementing two 
disposition approaches and has determined that in order to make 
progress with available funds, only one approach can be supported. 
Russia does not consider immobilization alone to be an acceptable 
approach because immobilization, unlike the irradiation of MOX fuel, 
fails to degrade the isotopic composition of the plutonium. Russia has 
contended that the United States could easily obtain plutonium by 
removing it from the immobilized waste form in the event of a desire to 
reuse the plutonium for nuclear weapons. Because selection of an 
immobilization-only approach would lead to loss of Russian interest in 
and commitment to surplus plutonium disposition, DOE is of the view 
that if only one disposition approach is to be pursued, the MOX 
approach rather than the immobilization approach is the preferable one. 
Accordingly, it is canceling the immobilization portion of the dual 
disposition strategies announced in previous RODs.

B. Consolidated Long-Term Storage of Plutonium at SRS

    Canceling the U.S. immobilization program has caused DOE/NNSA to 
reevaluate the long-term storage needs of the DOE nuclear complex. Much 
of the non-pit surplus plutonium currently stored at various sites in 
the complex was originally destined for immobilization. DOE/NNSA is 
examining alternative disposition paths for this material, including 
use as MOX fuel (see II.D, below). In the meantime, however, DOE needs 
to move forward with consolidated storage of some of this material, 
which serves independent objectives. In particular, DOE must 
consolidate the plutonium in order to close and clean up facilities and 
sites in the complex. In the case of RFETS, the schedule for site 
closure and cleanup is governed by an agreement between DOE and state 
regulators. Shipments from RFETS must begin soon in order to maintain 
that schedule. While the material is being safely and securely stored 
at all locations, consolidated storage of this material as RFETS is 
moving toward closure would afford DOE the opportunity to further 
improve the security of the material and at the same time achieve cost 
    Long-term storage of surplus plutonium and the ultimate disposition 
of that plutonium are separate actions, and these actions were 
addressed separately in the Storage and Disposition PEIS. Alternatives 
for accomplishing each action were analyzed. While previous RODs that 
were issued based on that PEIS combined these two actions, such 
combination was not required to implement either decision, and indeed 
served no significant programmatic objective. The Storage and 
Disposition PEIS analyzed long-term storage at each of four sites: The 
Hanford Reservation (Hanford), the Idaho National Engineering 
Laboratory (now the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental 
Laboratory [INEEL]), Pantex and SRS. In this amended ROD, DOE/NNSA is 
modifying the earlier RODs to select the option of long-term storage of 
non-pit plutonium at SRS on its own merits.
    DOE has reviewed the Storage and Disposition PEIS and related 
Supplement Analyses and has determined that the analyses remain valid 
for the decisions announced herein.
    This decision affects only the non-pit surplus plutonium located at 
RFETS. This amended ROD does not affect the decision made in the 
January 21, 1997 ROD for the Storage and Disposition PEIS to continue 
current storage of non-pit surplus plutonium at Hanford, INEEL and 
1. Shipment of RFETS Material
    Shipments of surplus plutonium materials to SRS in support of the 
RFETS closure schedule are addressed in existing NEPA documents. In 
addition to the analysis contained in the Storage and Disposition PEIS, 
the accelerated shipments of surplus plutonium materials from RFETS to 
SRS were analyzed in the 1998 SA described above (DOE/EIS-0229-SA1) and 
were reflected in the transportation analyses presented in the SPD EIS. 
Both the January 17, 1997 initial ROD and the August 13, 1998 amended 
ROD for the Storage and Disposition PEIS conditioned shipment of 
plutonium from RFETS to SRS for storage on selection of SRS as the site 
for the immobilization facility. Cancellation of the immobilization 
facility and selection of the consolidated long-term storage 
alternative in this amended ROD removes the basis for that contingency. 
DOE will notify the Congress and consult with the Governor of South 
Carolina before shipping plutonium from RFETS to SRS, in accordance 
with The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2002.
2. Long-Term Storage of Surplus Plutonium in the KAMS Facility at SRS
    DOE/NNSA decided (63 FR 43386, August 13, 1998) to store surplus 
plutonium from RFETS at the KAMS facility while the APSF was being 
constructed. However, the storage of surplus plutonium in the KAMS 
facility could extend beyond the 10-year period estimated in the 1998 
Supplement Analysis discussed above (DOE/EIS-0229-SA1). Therefore, DOE 
prepared another SA, Supplement Analysis for Storage of Surplus 
Plutonium Materials in the K-Area Material Storage Facility at the 
Savannah River Site, February 2002 (DOE/EIS-0229-SA2), which evaluated 
the potential for storage beyond 10 years at the KAMS facility. That SA 
concluded that potential impacts from the continued storage of surplus 
plutonium in the KAMS facility at SRS for this additional period are 
not substantially different from those addressed in the original 
analysis of storage in APSF contained in the Storage and Disposition 
PEIS. Therefore, DOE/NNSA is deciding to use the KAMS facility to store 
the plutonium transferred from RFETS.

C. Storage of Surplus Plutonium at Pantex

    DOE/NNSA now plans to continue storing surplus pits in Zone 4 at 
Pantex, as opposed to transferring the pits to an upgraded facility in 
Zone 12 by 2004 as announced in the Storage and Disposition PEIS ROD. 
Surplus pits would be maintained in storage in Zone 4 pending 
disposition at SRS. DOE had intended to relocate all pits in storage at 
Pantex to upgraded facilities in Zone 12 and eventually to discontinue 
use of Zone 4. However, further analysis of mission needs determined 
that Zone 4 would likely be needed well into the future for weapons 
dismantlement activities and to comply with possible treaty 
requirements. That being the case, cost savings initially postulated 

[[Page 19435]]

the closure of Zone 4 would not be achieved. This realization, coupled 
with the availability of adequate storage space in Zone 4 to 
accommodate both surplus pits and weapons dismantlement activities, as 
well as concerns expressed by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety 
Board over storing both national security and surplus pits in Zone 12, 
led DOE to reexamine whether it would be more appropriate to continue 
storing surplus pits in Zone 4.
    The storage of surplus pits in Zone 4 at Pantex is ongoing and 
consistent with the current storage practices and was evaluated as part 
of the No Action Alternative in the Storage and Disposition PEIS. The 
SPD EIS ROD also acknowledged that DOE was considering leaving the 
surplus pits in Zone 4, pending disposition at SRS.

D. MOX Fuel Program

    Section 3155(c) of The National Defense Authorization Act for 
Fiscal Year 2002 required the Department to submit to Congress by 
February 1, 2002, a plan for disposal of the surplus plutonium 
currently located at SRS or to be shipped to SRS in the future. Section 
3155(d) also required the Department to submit a plan for a disposition 
path for plutonium that would otherwise have been disposed of at an 
immobilization facility or at a MOX facility, if the Department 
determines not to proceed with either facility. In response to this 
Congressional mandate, DOE/NNSA, on February 15, 2002 (and supplemented 
by letter on March 5, 2002) submitted a document entitled Report to 
Congress: Disposition of Surplus Defense Plutonium at Savannah River 
Site. That report states that DOE/NNSA's current disposition strategy 
involves a MOX-only approach, under which DOE/NNSA would dispose of up 
to 34 t of surplus plutonium by converting it to MOX fuel and 
irradiating it in commercial power reactors. Implementation of this 
strategy is key to the successful completion of the agreement between 
the U.S. and the Russian Federation discussed in Section I.A., above. 
DOE is currently analyzing the changes to the MOX fuel portion of the 
surplus plutonium disposition program needed to carry out that 
strategy, including analysis conducted pursuant to NEPA. No final 
decisions regarding the MOX portion of the surplus plutonium 
disposition program will be made until DOE/NNSA has completed this 

Amended Decisions

    DOE/NNSA is modifying its decisions on storage and disposition of 
surplus plutonium as follows:
     Cancel the immobilization portion of DOE/NNSA's 
disposition strategy.
     Select the alternative of consolidated long-term storage 
at SRS of non-pit surplus plutonium now stored separately at RFETS and 
at SRS.
     Utilize the KAMS facility for consolidated long-term 
storage of surplus plutonium.
     Continue storage of surplus pits in Zone 4 at Pantex in 
lieu of storage in Zone 12.

    Issued in Washington, DC, April 15, 2002.
John A. Gordon,
Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration.
[FR Doc. 02-9658 Filed 4-18-02; 8:45 am]