Critical-decision 2 for a new plutonium pit production plant at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina is now expected in fiscal 2025, a state panel heard last week from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

Jason Armstrong, manager of the NNSA field office at Savannah River, told the Governor’s Nuclear Advisory Committee that critical-decision 2 on the Savannah River Site Plutonium Processing Facility should come in the middle of fiscal 2025.

That translates to around April 2025 or six months later than previously forecast. DoE and NNSA officials also told the governor’s panel that the public won’t notice much difference when NNSA takes over responsibility for Savannah River in 2025. 

The NNSA plans to repurpose the canceled Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility Building 226-F for pit production. The NNSA plans to start making 80 pits annually with 30 coming from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the other 50 coming from Savannah River starting in the 2030s.

Critical-decision 1 was made in June 2021, and estimated the pits plant at Savannah River would run between $6.9 billion to- $11.1 billion, and be completed by 2035, according to NNSA. At that time, critical-decision 2, which requires a 90% design completion, was expected during fiscal 2024.

Pipes and other components not needed for pits are being removed and remediated at the mixed-oxide facility, Armstrong said. The NNSA and site prime Savannah River Nuclear Solutions are managing the project. A team of Fluor [FLR], Merrick and Sandia National Laboratories are designing various aspects of the Savannah River pit plant, according to the NNSA.

During the Oct. 24 meeting, Armstrong also said “nobody is losing their job” when NNSA takes over the Savannah River Site from DoE’s Office of Environmental Management in 2025. “We have plenty of work.”

Most of the tasks the nuclear cleanup office is transferring is work such as information technology, now done for the site by Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, said Michael Budney, who heads the Environmental Management field office. “Jason becomes responsible” for these issues, “not me,” Budney said.