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National Security Directorate

Defense Programs

A stable supply of tritium, which decays over time, is necessary to maintain the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. This is done by the irradiation of tritium-producing burnable absorber rods (TPBARs) in a commercial nuclear power reactor. Currently, tritium production is done in the Watts Bar Unit 1 reactor in Tennessee. PNNL is the Design Agency for the TPBARs. In this role, PNNL provides the TPBAR design for each reactor operating cycle, assesses the performance of the TPBAR during and after each operating cycle, completes post-irradiation examinations on selected TPBARs, considers design changes to improve the performance or fabricability of the TPBARs, manages a multi-site demonstration and test program to collect performance information, and evaluates future design changes.

PNNL also serves as a resource to support other Defense Program missions where we can apply unique capabilities. We draw on our materials sciences, reactor operations, and tritium technology expertise to provide support capabilities. Included in this support is access to PNNL’s Category 2 nuclear facility with new hot cells and glove boxes and the capability to work with a wide variety of nuclear materials.

For more information contact:

Cheryl Thornhill
Manager, Defense Programs
(509) 375-2532

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National Security Directorate