Description: Plutonium-238 is used in Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs) to generate electrical power and in Radioisotope Heater Units (RHUs) to produce heat for electronics and environmental control for deep space missions. The domestic supply of Pu-238 consists of scrap material from previous mission production or material purchased from Russia. Currently, the United States has no significant production scale operational capability to produce and separate new Pu-238 from irradiated neptunium-237 targets. The Department of Energy - Nuclear Energy is currently evaluating and developing plans to reconstitute the United States capability to produce Pu-238 from irradiated Np-237 targets. The Savannah River Site had previously produced and/or processed all the Pu-238 utilized in Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs) for deep space missions up to and including the majority of the plutonium for the Cassini Mission. The previous full production cycle capabilities included: Np-237 target fabrication, target irradiation, target dissolution and Np-237 and Pu-238 separation and purification, conversion of Np-237 and Pu-238 to oxide, scrap recovery, and Pu-238 encapsulation. The capability and equipment still exist and could be revitalized or put back into service to recover and purify Pu-238/Np-237 or broken General Purpose Heat Source (GPHS) pellets utilizing existing process equipment in HB-Line Scrap Recovery, and H-anyon Frame Waste Recovery processes. The conversion of Np-237 and Pu-238 to oxide can be performed in the existing HB-Line Phase-2 and Phase-3 Processes. Dissolution of irradiated Np-237 target material, and separation and purification of Np-237 and Pu-238 product streams would be possible at production rates of ~ 2 kg/month of Pu-238 if the existing H-Canyon Frames Process spare equipment were re-installed. Previously, the primary H-Canyon Frames equipment was removed to be replaced: however, the replacement project was stopped. The spare equipment is stored and still available for installation. Out of specification Pu-238 scrap material can be purified and recovered ...
Date: January 9, 2013
Creator: Fuller, K.; Smith, Robert H. Jr. & Goergen, Charles R.
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Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department