STORAGE AND CONTAINMENT
The DOE mission for utilization and storage of nuclear materials has recently changed as
a result of the end of the "Cold War" era. Past and current plutonium storage practices
largely reflect a temporary, in-process, or in-use storage condition which must now be
changed to accommodate longer-term storage.
The DOE has sponsored a number of workshops on disposing of plutonium. Two of the
objectives of these workshops have been to make recommendations for near-term and
long-term storage forms and to identify possible alternatives. At the Hanford Plutonium
Disposition Workshop held in Richland, Washington, from June 16 to 18, 1992, the two
highest ranking stabilization processes were, first, denitration of plutonium nitrate, and,
second, thermal stabilization. The third-ranked process included the precipitation of
Cs2PuC16or K4Pu(SO4) 4 followed by thermal stabilization (Hoyt, 1993). At the workshop
on plutonium storage sponsored by DOE Albuquerque, on May 26 and 27, 1993, both
metal and oxide were considered suitable storage forms. A report has been issued
summarizing information presented here and resulting from this workshop (DOE, 1994a).
This important report includes sections on:
-- materials properties relevant to storage;
-- current storage practice (DOE Facilities, RFP, LANL, Hanford, SRS, and ANL);
-- advanced storage concepts;
-- hazard analysis; and
A report entitled "Technical Issues in Interim Plutonium Storage" by J. C. Martz, J. M.
Haschke, and M. C. Bryuson, LANL, submitted to Arms Control and Nonproliferation
Technologies, attempts to provide a technical basis for addressing complex interfaces
with political and economic issues. Its goal is to identify alternative storage options for
excess plutonium. Currently, DOE is circulating Draft Interim Recommendations for
Storage of Plutonium Metal and Plutonium Oxide at Department of Energy Facilities.
The principal difference between interim and long-term storage is the need for transfer of
plutonium from a contaminated glovebox environment into an improved, hermetically
sealed storage container without the inclusion of plastic or other organic materials.
Existing storage and handling requirements for plutonium metal and oxides are currently
covered in DOE Order 460.1A (DOE, 1996b).
The following property summaries adapted from Haschke and Martz (1993), are useful
for determining potentially unsuitable storage and containment conditions for plutonium
metal and oxide. Given that plutonium metal is chemically reactive in air and other
environments, it also: