In Brief: U.S. Nuclear Weapon "Pit" Production: Background and Options [March 20, 2014]   [open pdf - 238KB]

"Congress is involved in the long-running and costly decision regarding the future production of 'pits'; a pit is a nuclear weapon's plutonium core. […] U.S. policy is to maintain existing nuclear weapons. To do this, the Department of Defense has stated that it needs DOE to have the capacity to produce 50-80 ppy [pits per year] by 2030. This report focuses on options to reach 80 ppy. A separate debate, not discussed here, is the validity of the requirement; a lower capacity would be simpler and less costly to attain. Pit production requires many tasks, but this report focuses on two: pit fabrication, which forms plutonium into precise shapes, and analytical chemistry (AC), which monitors the composition of each pit. Any feasible option requires sufficient 'space' (laboratory floor space) and 'Material At Risk' (MAR) allowance. Each building for plutonium work is permitted a specified amount of MAR, i.e., radioactive material (adjusted for radioactivity) that could be released by an event like an earthquake. […] This report shows that many options are available for making 80 ppy, but it cannot determine which, if any, could support that capacity because data do not exist on how much MAR and space are needed for AC and pit fabrication for 80 ppy. Likewise, there are little to no data on cost. However, the report raises questions that Congress may wish to have answered in order to decide how to proceed."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, R43428
Public Domain
Retrieved From:
Federation of American Scientists: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/index.html
Media Type:
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