Synaptic terminals of retinal bipolar neurons contain a pool of readily releasable synaptic vesicles that undergo rapid calcium-dependent release. ATP hydrolysis is required for the functional refilling of this vesicle pool. However, it was unclear which steps required ATP hydrolysis: delivery of vesicles to their anatomical release sites or preparation of synaptic vesicles and/or the secretory apparatus for fusion. To address this, we dialyzed single synaptic terminals with ATP or the poorly hydrolyzable analogue ATP-gammaS and examined the size of the releasable pool, refilling of the releasable pool, and the number of vesicles at anatomical active zones. After minutes of dialysis with ATP-gammaS, vesicles already in the releasable pool could still be discharged. This pool was not functionally refilled despite the fact that its anatomical correlate, the number of synaptic vesicles tethered to active zone synaptic ribbons, was completely normal. We conclude 1) because the existing releasable pool is stable during prolonged inhibition of ATP hydrolysis, whereas entry into the functional pool is blocked, a vesicle on entering the pool will tend to remain there until it fuses; 2) because the anatomical pool is unaffected by inhibition of ATP hydrolysis, failure to refill the functional pool is not caused by failure of vesicle movement; 3) local vesicle movements important for pool refilling and fusion are independent of conventional ATP-dependent motor proteins; and 4) ATP hydrolysis is required for the biochemical transition of vesicles and/or release sites to fusion-competent status.