Reliable fuel source

Posted: February 7, 2013 - 7:00pm | Y-12 Report | Volume 9, Issue 2 | 2013

Y‑12 provides the U.S. Navy with feedstock from retired weapons systems to fuel nuclear-powered vessels.

Y‑12 provides the U.S. Navy with feedstock from retired weapons systems to fuel nuclear-powered vessels.

The U.S. stopped enriching uranium for naval reactors in 1991. Then, in 2005, as a commitment to nonproliferation, the U.S. government announced that 160 metric tons of uranium from the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile would be provided to the Naval Reactors program in the coming decades, allowing a constant, reliable source to fuel the nuclear Navy. That reliable source is Y‑12.

Over the past 10 years, working with the Naval Reactors program, Y‑12 has supplied the U.S. Navy with feedstock from weapons removed from the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile to fuel nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers. And that's recycling and nonproliferation at their finest.

“Having spent more than 35 years in the Navy, including commanding USS L. Mendel Rivers, a nuclear-powered submarine, it's clear to me that the professionals at Y‑12 should be very proud of their long and sustained contributions to the success of the U.S. Navy over the years,” said Van Mauney, Y‑12 vice president for Program Management.

Y‑12 is disassembling nuclear weapon components no longer needed following the Cold War, processing, cleaning and packaging that fissile material and sending it off-site to Naval Reactors' fuel producers. There the uranium is used to produce fuel for the nuclear reactors aboard submarines and aircraft carriers.

“Y‑12 provides the Navy highly enriched uranium to fuel naval reactors, which generate steam for propulsion and other on-board systems,” said Russ Schmidt, technical staff specialist and 30-year employee. Today's naval reactor fuel cores require high-enrichment fuel, are long-lived and are built to last the life of the submarine.

Under a memorandum of agreement between the National Nuclear Security Administration's Naval Reactors and Defense Programs, Y‑12 will continue annual deliveries for the next four decades. “It's exceptionally rewarding to be able to meet this important national defense mission and to see our recycling efforts go full circle,” said Gary Person of Y‑12's Reactor and Material Supply program.