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For Immediate Release July 1, 2004
Media Contact: Jim Giusti   (803) 952-7697


NNSA And WSRC Reconition Of Progress In Key Tritium Facilities

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(Aiken, SC) -- Personnel from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Savannah River Site Office (SRSO) joined with the Westinghouse Savannah River Company team on Thursday, July 1, to recognize the hundreds of craft personnel and other employees who have contributed to the exceptional progress on two key tritium projects.

The Tritium Extraction Facility (TEF) and the Tritium Facility Modernization and Consolidation project (TCON) are major endeavors designed to equip the NNSA to meet the nation's need for tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen gas that is a vital component of nuclear weapons. Tritium in the weapons stockpile must be replenished continually because it has a half-life of only 12.3 years.

"The $506 million Tritium Extraction Facility and the $142 million Tritium Consolidation project represent a substantial investment by the United States in modernizing its nuclear weapons facilities," said Rick Arkin, NNSA SRSO Manager. "The hard work of these people along with the continued success of these projects will ensure the long-term operation of the Tritium Facilities at SRS for many years to come."

In late May, TEF construction personnel turned over the first two process systems to operations personnel, three months ahead of schedule. TEF is part of NNSA's Tritium Readiness Program for manufacturing tritium. There has been no new source of tritium in the U.S. since 1988. Tritium Producing Burnable Absorber Rods, which are being irradiated in a Tennessee Valley Authority nuclear power plant, will be transported to the TEF, where the tritium will be extracted.

Construction of TEF began in 2000 and is now approximately 84% complete. The exteriors of TEF's two major buildings are complete, and outfitting the interior of both buildings is under way. Inert gas testing is expected to begin in FY05 with approval to begin normal operations forecast for FY07.

TCON, which will consolidate tritium processing and handling activities into the newest of the Tritium Facilities, is on schedule for completion in September. This consolidation will, among other advantages, allow the deactivation of the 50-year-old 232-H building. The new areas of the main tritium processing building began "hot" (radioactive) testing in December 2003, with full operation scheduled for August 2004. The Materials Test Facility received approval to begin radioactive operation in April; startup testing is expected to be completed in mid-July, signaling the beginning of full operations in this facility.




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