Special USA Plutonium, Pits and Politics
United States is the biggest plutonium player in the global scene, even
though it currently does not have a commercially-based reprocessing
or plutonium use policy. The known US stockpile under federal management
is well over 100 tonnes, and private utilities retain very significant
stocks in unreprocessed irradiated fuel. It was in the United States
that plutonium was created experimentally for the first time, by Glenn
Seaborg in 1941 (PI No. 12-13); and in 1945 the United States became
the first country to manufacture and test plutonium-based fission weapons.
The United States remains the only country to have offensively detonated
a plutonium weapon, the Nagasaki bomb on 9 August 1945.
US government has produced plutonium for the US nuclear weapons stockpile
and US Department of Energy (DOE) research and development programs
in fourteen plutonium production reactors at DOE's Hanford (Washington
State) and Savannah River (South Carolina) sites. From 1944 to 1988
these reactors produced 103.4 tonnes of plutonium: 67.4 tonnes at Hanford,
and 36.1 at Savannah River.
regulation in the United States is complex, with several government
departments and many federal agencies plus specialist panels involved
alongside state oversight authorities, often with competing international,
national and regional priorities. As a result, the plutonium story in
the United States is ever changing and sometimes contradictory. This
short report provides a selective snapshot of the situation at the end
of the millennium. It is not definitive.
most countries where facts about plutonium are hard to uncover, the
United States makes available to the public a huge volume of information
on plutonium, much of it accessible on web sites. This report makes
use of this situation, and refers the reader to various sites where
more detailed data and original reports can be found.
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