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Cracking Thresholds are measured by exposing pre-cracked samples to tritium gas
Cracking Thresholds are measured by exposing pre-cracked samples to tritium gas

About SRNL - Directorates

National Security

David Wilson
Associate Laboratory Director

Defense Programs Technology

For over 60 years, the Savannah River Site’s primary mission has been the production of tritium for our Nation’s nuclear deterrent. From the beginning, the Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) has provided the technical foundation to ensure the successful execution of this critical defense mission. SRNL has developed most of the processes used in the tritium mission and provides the research and development necessary to supply this critical component of our Nation’s nuclear stockpile.

Historically, SRNL designed the processes for tritium production in SRS heavy water reactors. Today, production occurs at the Tennessee Valley Authority. However, the processes for unloading target assemblies and reservoirs, isotopic separation, transfer, storage and reservoir loading, are developed by SRNL in close partnership and collaboration with Savannah River Site Tritium Operations and the National Nuclear Security Administration Weapons Design Agencies (Los Alamos National Laboratory, Livermore National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratory).

SRNL’s Defense Programs Technology Directorate is comprised of three groups:

• Hydrogen Processing Group

• Weapons Technology Group

• Material Test Facility

The Hydrogen Processing Group promotes the applied research and development of hydrogen technologies used in the recovery of tritium. Research in Hydrogen Processing ranges from basic science exploration of material properties to nanomaterial applications and large-scale development of tritium processes and systems. The Hydrogen Processing Group works closely with the Savannah River Tritium Facilities to develop and deploy the largest metal hydride facility for tritium processing in the world, and its technologies are continually evolving. As leaders of metal hydride technologies, HPG works closely with the Tritium Facilities to evaluate current processes and provide state of the art development activities to support modern, smaller, low-cost, responsive facilities and infrastructure that fully utilize technological advancements.

The SRNL Weapons Technology Group works with nuclear weapon gas transfer systems. This highly-skilled organization helps manage production development for the Life Extension Program, tritium Reservoir Surveillance, and the Life Storage Program. This group ensures that weapons components are safely stored, maintained, and are able to operate as needed. The Weapons Technology Group also performs tritium-related research and development, and works closely with other national laboratories on new weapons design systems.

The Materials Test Facility is located inside the Tritium Facilities at SRS. This group supports Gas Transfer System Surveillance, which is an essential program in guaranteeing the reliability of our nation’s weapons stockpile without underground testing. Highly skilled researchers and technicians handle a variety of experimental, prototypic, and production reservoirs with appropriate gas mixtures, then store then under conditions that either represent stockpile conditions or accelerated aging. They then unload the reservoir or test it to evaluate critical features and impacts on metal quality. This vital laboratory testing helps verify weapons design and performance, and evaluates the impact of tritium on materials.

SRNL provides significant support to the Tritium Operations in the following areas

SRNL R&D Engineering & Packaging:

  • Specialty Custom Engineering and Equipment Development
    • Design, Development and Fabrication of Process Fixtures
    • Welding and Joining Technologies
    • Remote Monitoring and Handling Equipment Design, Development and Fabrication
    • Secure Wireless Development
    • High Pressure Testing and Pressure Protection
  • Nuclear Materials Packaging (NSE Experts)

SRNL Materials Science and Technology:

  • Tritium Effects on Materials
  • Materials Expertise and Consultation
  • Tritium Extraction

SRNL Analytical Development:

  • Specialty Analytical Analyses
  • Analytical Expertise and Consulting

SRNL Quality Assurance

  • NIST Traceable Standards and Calibrations



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