Managing Critical Isotopes: Stewardship of Lithium-7 Is Needed to Ensure a Stable Supply

images[4]About 13 percent of our nation’s electricity is produced by pressurized water reactors that rely on lithium-7, an isotope of lithium produced and exported solely by China and Russia, for their safe operation. Lithium-7 is added to the water that cools the reactor core to prevent the cooling water from becoming acidic. Without the lithium-7, the cooling waters acidity would increase the rate of corrosion of pipes and other infrastructure possibly causing them to fail. Utilities that operate the pressurized water reactors have experienced little difficulty obtaining lithium-7, but they may not be aware of all the risks of relying on two producers. GAO was asked to review the supply and domestic demand for lithium-7 and how risks are being managed. This report examines (1) what is known about the supply and demand of lithium-7, (2) what federal agencies are responsible for managing supply risks, and (3) alternative options to mitigate a potential shortage. GAO reviewed documents and interviewed officials from DOE, NNSA, and NRC, in addition to industry representatives. This report is an unclassified version of a classified report also issued in September 2013. For more info please go
to: http://www.ntis.gov/search/product.aspx?ABBR=PB2014100544 or call NTIS 1-800-553-6847 Mon – Fri 8am – 5pm est

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