PO Box 88 ~ Glendale Springs, North Carolina 28629 ~ Phone (336) 982-2691 ~ Fax (336) 982-2954 ~ Email:


February 6, 2001

Don Moniak (803) 644-6953
Janet Zeller (336) 982-2691


The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) today released a three part report, Plutonium, The Last Five Years documenting plutonium hazards and inventories and revealing the Department of Energy’s mismanagement of its plutonium storage responsibilities. BREDL called on the Department of Energy to disclose it current plutonium and highly enriched uranium inventories and make safe, secure plutonium storage its number one priority; and for the new administration to reverse the trend towards increased secrecy in DOE’s nuclear weapons complex.

The release of this report marks the 5th Anniversary of Secretary of Energy Hazel O’Leary’s last openness media conference, at which declassified estimates of plutonium and highly enriched uranium inventories were announced. Plutonium, the Last Five Years documents DOE’s inconsistent management of 26 metric tonnes of separated, unstable plutonium contained in more than 100,000 individual items and scheduled to be sent to the Savannah River Site in South Carolina or buried as waste at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico. DOE’s mismanagement has included:

a failure to meet its own long-term storage criteria for six metric tonnes of highly dispersible
plutonium oxide powder and more than eight metric tonnes of plutonium metals.

spending two years “studying” how to store ten metric tonnes of plutonium it plans to begin trucking this year from the Rocky Flats plant in Colorado to the Savannah River Site.

The report also details how DOE mismanagement of 12,000 plutonium pits stored at the Pantex Nuclear Weapons Plant in Texas is increasing the uncertainty of the reliability of its nuclear weapons arsenal and fueling demands for new plutonium pit production. At the present time, DOE is storing thousands of plutonium pits it calls “National Security Assets” in decades-old facilities and in containers unsuitable for long-term storage. The Department has not funded the procurement of new containers for its “enduring stockpile” plutonium pits.

A review of the hazards of plutonium reveals similar disturbing trends with the 21 metric tonnes of plutonium contained in about 7,000 plutonium pits that DOE intends to truck to SRS this decade to be disassembled and converted for use in a plutonium fuel factory:

The Department is planning to treat plutonium oxide powders at temperatures that will operations at its plutonium fuel factory more vulnerable to explosions, leaks, and increased radioactive waste generation;

DOE and SRS have no apparent plan for preventing Chronic Beryllium Disease at SRS even though plutonium pit disassembly and conversion will convert SRS into one of the government’s largest processor of high purity beryllium.

Finally, the report details how plutonium “disposition” facilities have been sold as “nonproliferation” missions at the same time DOE has secretly been planning and upgrading its capabilities to fabricate 100-500 new plutonium pits per year at SRS.

“DOE’s own scientific reports point to plutonium as having the most complex chemistry of any element known to the human race, yet they are pursuing agendas that will put people and our environment at far greater risk from plutonium,” said Don Moniak of Aiken, South Carolina, Community Organizer for BREDL.

“The Department of Energy is playing with something far more dangerous than fire. It is time to recognize plutonium as a liability and drop this crazy scheme to use it as fuel,” said BREDL’s Executive Director Janet Zeller.


More Info:

Download .pdf file or view html files of report.
by Don Moniak