The Department of Energy could be prepared to start transferring control of the Savannah River Site to its semiautonomous nuclear-weapons agency in bits and pieces starting around 2023, a spokesperson at Washington headquarters said Monday.

DoE’s Office of Environmental Management (EM), which owns the Aiken, S.C., site now, and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which plans to take over the site by September 30, 2025, “are forming an integrated team of senior subject matter experts to develop a transition plan by 2023,” an NNSA spokesperson wrote in an email.

“The plan will define responsibility and management of functions and capabilities for each organization,” the spokesperson said. “The plan will also assess and recommend the timing of transfer of functions and responsibilities through a phased approach.”

The NNSA plans to start casting new plutonium pits at the Savannah River Site by the early- or mid-2030s, a few years before DoE EM estimates it will be finishing the large scale cleanup of liquid radioactive waste leftover from years of Cold War plutonium production near the Georgia border.

Today, the NNSA passes money for the pit program through EM’s contract with the Fluor [FLR]-led Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, which handles most of the work at the Savannah River Site that does not involve liquid waste. The team is under contract until at least 2026.

Savannah River Site also has a separate security contractor, Centerra, a liquid waste cleanup contractor, the BWX Technologies [BWXT]-led Savannah River Mission Completion, and a contractor to run the Savannah River National Laboratory, Battelle Savannah River Alliance. The lab is a mostly a technology incubator for cleanup of nuclear-weapon-production waste. EM owns all of these contracts.

NNSA began in 2018 to publicly discuss its plans for turning the site’s partially completed Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility into the Savannah River Plutonium Processing Facility and the agency has since maneuvered to take control of the site from EM.

NNSA wants the Savannah River Site to produce at least 50 pits annually. A separate pit plant at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico is supposed to produce 30 pits annually beginning in 2026.

Savannah River Site’s last plutonium producing reactors shut down in 1988. EM started up the Defense Waste Processing Facility, which solidifies the liquid waste from the plutonium mission, in 1996, according to the site. In its most recent version of the Savannah River Site Liquid Waste Planning Process, now more than three years old, EM estimated it would empty the site’s final liquid waste tank in 2037.