U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today said he was pleased the Department of Energy had reversed course and agreed to allow the H-Canyon at Savannah River Site to be used to produce approximately 3.7 metric tons of plutonium oxide feedstock for the MOX facility. In President Obama's budget submission to Congress earlier this year the Administration had proposed putting the canyon in "cold standby,' likely rendering it inoperable for future use.
"Earlier this year, the future of H-canyon was put very much in jeopardy by the President's budget," said Graham. "I have worked very closely with the Savannah River Site, the Department of Energy, and NNSA to reverse this decision and guarantee future work for H-canyon.
"Allowing H-Canyon to produce the initial feedstock for MOX is most welcome news," said Graham. "I'm pleased they have recognized the versatility of this unique asset. The use of H-Canyon will begin the process of converting weapons grade plutonium into nuclear fuel and setting a pathway for the material to ultimately leave South Carolina. As a long-time supporter of MOX, I believe it is the ultimate example of turning swords into plowshares."
The Savannah River Site's H and F canyons played an important role in our nation's nuclear weapons complex. Constructed in the 1950s, the versatility of the canyons were shown through their work in manufacturing components of nuclear weapons, fuel for our NASA missions, and most recently through H-canyon's conversion of Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) into commercial nuclear fuel.
After the Cold War ended, the Department of Energy decided that they did not need two canyons and closed down F-canyon. This left H-canyon as the only facility in the country that could perform critical separations work.
Graham noted that despite the canyon's age, it still remains one of the backbones of SRS. There is a significant amount of research reactor fuel and other nuclear material that needs to be processed through the canyon. The canyon can also play an important role in developing the next generation of spent fuel recycling.
"By providing feedstock for MOX, H-canyon will continue in its historical national security work," said Graham. "It should also not preclude other work from happening in the canyon. There remains room to work on spent fuel recycling and other important missions. I look forward to continuing to work with the site, the community, and the Department of Energy as we move forward.