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.
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.”
Published: October 28, 2022