October 28, 2022
Staff Accomplishment

PNNL Celebrated 25 Years of Support to Tritium Production for National Security

Tritium Technology Qualification Project 25th Anniversary

In September 2022, members of the original Tritium Technology Qualification Project gathered to celebrate the 25th anniversary of delivering the first tritium-producing absorber rods: back row (from left to right): Ed Love, Mike Durst, Art Lopez, Andy Prichard, Bill Shipp, Rob Gates, Darrell Herling, Bruce Schmitt, Steve Bales, and Glenn Hollenberg; front row (from left to right) are Stan Pitman, Don Lanning, Steve Sallee, Kathy Whelan, Jackie Dennis, Cheryl Thornhill, Julie Turner, Gary Sevigny, Lee Fetro, and David Senor.

(Photo by Eddie Pablo | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

At a celebration in late September, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) marked 25 years of involvement in the Tritium Modernization Program. Current PNNL staff members, retirees, sponsors, and partners from national laboratories, industry, and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) convened during at an event at the Tritium Science Technical Exchange on the PNNL-Richland campus to celebrate PNNL’s design, fabrication, and shipment of 32 first-of-a-kind tritium-producing burnable absorber rods (TPBARs) to the Westinghouse Fuel Fabrication Facility in Columbia, South Carolina in July 1997.

Mike Thompson
Mike Thompson of NNSA addresses the audience at the 25th Anniversary celebration. (Photo by Eddie Pablo | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

Later, those TPBARS were irradiated in the TVA Watts Bar Nuclear commercial power plant for 18 months. This successful demonstration formed the technical basis of the modern tritium-production supply chain for the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. The PNNL Tritium Technology Program has supported continuous production of tritium via TPBARs in TVA commercial reactors since 2003 and enables tritium extraction and processing by Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, LLC, at the Savannah River Site.

The event featured speakers who reflected on the importance of the Tritium Modernization Program to the nuclear weapons stockpile and shared history of the program and anecdotes. In his remarks, Dean Paxton, the current manager of the PNNL Tritium Technology Program expressed his gratitude to the members of the original team that designed and fabricated the first TPBARs by stating, “Your design and materials have stood the test of time.” 

Guest speaker Mike Thompson, National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) principal assistant deputy administrator for Stockpile Sustainment within the Office of Defense Programs, noted, “The Tritium Modernization Program is our favorite supply chain success story…on behalf of NNSA, thank you for your work.”

Photo of PNNL and sponsor staff holding a banner in front of a green-blue semi-truck.
In July 1997, PNNL and sponsor staff celebrated meeting the 20-month schedule for design, fabrication, and delivery of the first 32 TPBARs to be irradiated at the Watts Bar Nuclear power plant. (Photo: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

Published: October 28, 2022

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