Source: Oak Ridge Today | John Huotari | September 14, 2018
About 20 metric tons of highly enriched uranium could be “down-blended” to low-enriched uranium and transferred to the Tennessee Valley Authority for use as a fuel to produce tritium for nuclear weapons, according to a public notice published in the Federal Register this week.
The project involves the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge and Watts Bar Nuclear Plant near Spring City in Rhea County, among other sites.
The National Nuclear Security Administration and TVA announced in Augustthat they intend to enter into an agreement to “down-blend” highly enriched uranium to low-enriched uranium in order to help produce tritium, a key “boosting” component in nuclear weapons.
The highly enriched uranium used for the “down-blending” will be processed, packaged, and shipped from Y-12, according to the NNSA. Y-12 is an NNSA site, and it is the main storage facility for certain categories of highly enriched uranium.
Low-enriched uranium, or LEU fuel, is used in a TVA commercial power reactor, Watts Bar Nuclear Plant Unit 1. Tritium is produced there by irradiating lithium-aluminate pellets with neutrons in rods known as tritium-producing burnable absorber rods, or TPBARs.