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November 21, 2013

IG: maintenance of US nuke weapons at risk due to environmental impact statement delays

Tritium is a key component of current US nuclear weapon designs. Having a half life in the ~12 year range, tritium decays and "goes bad" pretty quick needing constant replacement to keep devices fully operational. We can produce enough for the next couple of years, but then the necessary tritium supply may become compromised.

OAS-L-14-01 November 2013

...The Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement and the license amendment request it supports are critical to meet future tritium demands, which are expected to exceed Nuclear Regulatory Commission permitted amounts by October 2015. To increase the current reactor safety limits by January 2015, NNSA had established a management challenge to complete the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. If the license amendment is not approved by October 2015, TVA will be forced to produce less tritium than required by current NNSA plans. If the resulting shortfall cannot be recovered in future reactor cycles it may become necessary for TVA to use an additional reactor, which would be very costly to NNSA. NNSA estimated that it would take 4 years and a minimum of $20 million dollars to prepare an additional reactor to meet its tritium production requirements....
From what I understand of current nuclear weapons design, a device with degraded tritium supply would still probably go "bang" to some degree. Tritium appears to be part of the "dial a yield" tuning mechanism. The fission core, which exists outside the tritium injection mechanism, should still go critical normally and be splody.


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posted by Purp at 03:32 PM

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