New U.S. storage depot for the highly enriched uranium in nuclear weapons

David Biello

Excerpted from: http://www.sciam.com/blog/60-second-science/post.cfm?id=new-us-storage-depot-for-the-highly-2008-09-09


The “ultra-secure uranium warehouse of the future” in Oak Ridge, Tenn., is now built, if not quite ready for work. Part of Complex 2030—the Bush Administration’s ambitious and semi-secret plan to revamp the nation’s aging infrastructure for building nuclear weapons—the warehouse will provide one location for the nation’s supply of the highly enriched uranium that makes for a powerful nuclear bomb.


Two years of testing remain before the HEU will actually show up, but the $549 million facility will replace “multiple” current storage locations scattered throughout the country. The HEU depot used 92,000 cubic yards of concrete, 5,800 tons of rebar and contains more than 1.5 million feet of wiring—and will ultimately be one of two locations used to store and process “thousands of containers of material,” according to the National Nuclear Security Administration, the branch of the U.S. Department of Energy tasked with dealing with the nation’s nuclear arsenal.


Of course, it remains an open question  what said nuclear arsenal—at least 10,000 missiles and other weapons—is for , nearly 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, all that fissile uranium has to go somewhere and it might as well be the thickest bunker in Tennessee.


Note: ‘Complex 2030’ has been renamed ‘Complex Transformation.’  Source:  http://nnsa.energy.gov/defense_programs/documents/NoticeOfAvailability.pdf


Uranium Enrichment via Separation of Isotopes by Laser Excitation

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