Current Issues: U.S. DOE Depleted UF6 Management Program
(last updated 6 Feb 2017)
> see also:
"Our audit disclosed that the Department had not taken adequate action to facilitate development of depleted uranium oxide-based products. In spite of finding potential uses that have shown promise, the Department plans to dispose of virtually the entire 551,000 metric tons of depleted uranium oxide produced by the conversion process as low-level waste at an estimated cost of about $428 million."
> Download Audit Report: Potential Uses for Depleted Uranium Oxide ,
U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Inspector General, Office of Audit Services, DOE/IG-0810, January 2009 (482kB PDF)
DOE has investigated the possible use of depleted uranium (DU) in jackhammer pistons. However, tests were performed with a tungsten alloy as a substitute for DU: "Although tungsten alloy is much more expensive than DU, it is not radioactive and hence is easier to fabricate and to test." (!)
The penetration rate in a concrete slab was 41% faster with the tungsten alloy piston than with the standard steel piston.
Demonstration of jackhammer incorporating depleted uranium, by Fischer, L E; Hoard, R W; Carter, D L; Saculla, M D; Wilson, G V; U.S. Department of Energy, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Report No. UCRL-ID-138923, April 1, 2000, 18p
> Download full report (2M PDF, LLNL)
In a recent report U.S. DOE analyzes the regulatory issues connected to proposed new uses of depleted uranium for civilian applications, such as
The report finds that "existing regulations would require most users of products and devices deploying new DU uses to obtain specific source material licenses from the NRC or an Agreement State. This situation would not be improved by pending regulatory modifications. Thus, deployment of new DU uses may be limited because persons having no previous experience with NRC or Agreement State regulations may be hesitant to incur the costs and inconvenience of regulatory compliance, unless using a DU-containing product or device offers a substantial economic benefit over nonradioactive alternatives."
- catalysts (for destroying volatile organic compounds in off-gases from industrial processes and for hydrodesulfurization[HDS] of petroleum fuels),
- semiconductors (for fabricating integrated circuits, solar cells, or thermoelectric devices, especially if such articles are expected to have service in hostile environments), and
- electrodes (for service in solid oxide fuel cells, in photoelectrochemical cells used to produce hydrogen, and in batteries).
As a consequence, the report proposes to perform risk estimates of the new DU uses, to justify - if found to be "acceptable" - adding new exemptions or general licenses to the NRC regulations. In the end, this would allow for dispersal of DU in radiologically uncontrolled areas.
Regulation of new depleted uranium uses, by N. L. Ranek, U.S. DOE Report No. ANL/EAD/TM/02-5, Jan. 2003, 52 p.
> Download full report (OSTI) · alternate source (DOE EAD) (160k PDF)
In a further report, DOE provides "guidance on the process for petitioning the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to initiate a rulemaking that could reduce the licensing burden for new products containing depleted uranium (DU) [...] The focus is on requirements of the NRC rulemaking process applicable to establishing new exemptions or general licenses for products and devices containing source material. [...] The report recommends that the U.S. Department of Energy formulate a regulatory plan for deployment of DU-containing products in areas that are not already radiologically controlled. Such a plan is needed because deployment of new DU-containing products may be difficult under existing NRC licensing requirements. " (emphasis added):
A Process for Reducing the Licensing Burden for New Products Containing Depleted Uranium, by N. L. Ranek, S. Kamboj, H. M. Hartmann, H. Avci, Environmental Assessment Division, Argonne National Laboratory, ANL/EAD/TM/03-01, Nov. 2003, 56 p.
> Download full report (OSTI) · alternate source (DOE EAD) (1MB PDF)
The following DOE presentation gives an overview of the research being conducted on possible uses of depleted uranium. In addition to uses discussed earlier, such as radiation shielding, catalysts, etc. it also mentions the possible use of DU as a replacement for silicon in semiconductors:
Haire, M.J. and R.R. Price 2001. "Technical Review of Depleted Uranium Uses Research and Development Program," Office of Environmental Management, Washington, DC USA, U.S. Department of Energy, 01/16/2001.
> Download full presentation (1.9MB PDF)
A first UO3 Schottky diode has been fabricated.
- Semiconductor devices that are based on uranium oxides appear possible and could offer significant improved performance compared to conventional Si, Ge, and GaAs materials
- If depleted uranium (DU) were used instead of silicon for semiconductive devices, 42,000 t/y of DU would be consumed. Approximately 20,000 t/y of DU is produced each year as tails from uranium enrichment operations
- Objective is to develop order of magnitudes improvements, new markets, and consume entire DU inventory"
For technical details, see also:
Uranium Oxide Semiconductors (DOE ANL EAD)
The Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a draft Roadmap that
it intends to use to guide any future research and development (R&D)
activities for the materials associated with its depleted uranium
hexafluoride (DUF6) inventory and certain other depleted
Comments on the draft Roadmap will be accepted during a public comment period that ends on October 20, 2000.
> View Federal Register Notice, September 7, 2000
U.S. Department of Energy: Draft DUF6 Materials Use Roadmap, September 1, 2000
> Download full text (2.8M PDF)
(from NMI News Release, May 5, 1997) Nuclear Metals, Inc., a
Concord, Massachusetts based advanced metals technology company,
has today announced the receipt of its first contract to
demonstrate production of several tons of depleted uranium (DU)
aggregate. This aggregate (Trade-named DUCRETE ), when
combined with cement, will be used to produce low cost radiation
shielding for nuclear waste applications.
[Nuclear Metals later was renamed Starmet Corp. ]
Notice of Availability of a Draft Supplement Analysis for Disposal of Depleted Uranium Oxide Conversion Product Generated From DOE's Inventory of Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride.
DOE will consider all public comments on this matter submitted by May 18, 2007.
Federal Register: April 3, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 63) p. 15869-15871 (download full text )
> Download Supplement Analysis: Depleted UF6 Management Information Network or DOE NEPA
Proposed Action: To implement a flexible suite of disposal options for depleted uranium (DU)-contaminated targets and target debris munitions residue (TDMR) from Target 63-10 and adjacent DU library located at the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR). The proposal would permit the Air Force to dispose of targets (mostly old tanks) and TDMR contaminated by 30-mm DU rounds fired by A-10 aircraft for test and training purposes.
> Download Draft - Nevada Test and Training Range Depleted Uranium Target Disposal Environmental Assessment, United States Air Force Air Combat Command, Sep. 2004 (2.7M PDF) - expires Oct. 25, 2004
On July 28, 2000, U.S. DOE released a study on disposal options for its stockpile of 700,000 metric tonnes of depleted uranium (DU), currently stored in UF6 cylinders. The study sees no problem in near-surface disposal of the depleted uranium at the Nevada Test Site (NTS), even if in the less stable chemical forms of UF4 or uranium metal, rather than the more stable oxides UO2 and U3O8 considered preferrable so far.
> Download Nevada's comments on the draft EA, Oct. 19, 2004 (PDF)
At the NTS, the DU would be disposed of in subsidence craters from past underground nuclear weapons tests and/or in designated shallow land burial areas.
Assessment of Preferred Depleted Uranium Disposal Forms, by A. G. Croff, J. R. Hightower, D. W. Lee, et al., Chemical Technology Division, OAK RIDGE NATIONAL LABORATORY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, ORNL/TM-2000/161, June 2000, 24 p.
> download ORNL study (125k PDF)
DOE approves new contractor to operate Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride (DUF6) Conversion Facilities
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has approved Mid-America Conversion Services, LLC (MCS) to begin operation of the Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride (DUF6) Conversion Facilities located near Paducah, Kentucky and Piketon, Ohio.
Under a five-year contract, MCS will be responsible for the operation of the DUF6 conversion facilities and the management of the cylinder-storage yards at the DOE Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant (GDP) Site in Ohio, and at DOE's Paducah GDP Site in Kentucky.
(Atkins Feb. 3, 2017)
DOE selects new contractor for operation of Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride (DUF6) Conversion Facilities
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced the award of a contract to Mid-America Conversion Services, LLC for the Operation of Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride (DUF6) Conversion Facilities at Paducah, Kentucky and Portsmouth, Ohio. The contract includes cost-plus award fee and firm-fixed-price contract line items. The total value of the contract is $318,811,847, with a five-year period of performance. Five proposals were received in response to the solicitation.
(DOE EM Sep. 29, 2016)
The same day, the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Environmental Management (EM) announced it is extending its contract with the current contractor BWXT Conversion Services LLC (BWCS) for a period of up to four months to accommodate the transition to the new contract without interruptions of ongoing services.
Department of Energy cites Portsmouth depleted UF6 deconversion contractor after two workers injured from potassium hydroxide release
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today issued a Preliminary Notice of Violation (PNOV) to BWXT Conversion Services, LLC (BWCS) for violations of DOE worker safety and health requirements.
BWCS is the project operating contractor for the DUF6 Project to convert more than 800,000 metric tons of Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride into Depleted Uranium Oxide.
The violations are associated with the inadvertent release of potassium hydroxide (KOH) that resulted in injuries to two workers at Portsmouth DUF6 Conversion Plant in Piketon, Ohio on March 25, 2015. The PNOV cites four Severity Level I violations and three Severity Level II violations of requirements enforceable under Title 10 C.F.R. Part 851, Worker Safety and Health Program. BWCS is cited for violations in the areas of: (1) management responsibilities, (2) hazard identification and assessment, (3) hazard prevention and abatement, (4) training and information, (5) recordkeeping and reporting, (6) lockout/tagout (LOTO), and (7) emergency response and occupational medicine.
(DOE July 13, 2016)
> Download: Preliminary Notice of Violation, BWXT Conversion Services, LLC, and DOE release July 13, 2016
DOE extends contract for operation of Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride Conversion Facilities for up to nine months
The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Environmental Management (EM) today (Dec. 24) announced it is extending its contract for Operations of Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride (DUF6) Conversion Facilities at Paducah, Kentucky and Portsmouth, Ohio for a period of up to nine months. The contract period for the current contractor, BWXT Conversion Services LLC (BWCS), had been scheduled to expire on January 1, 2016.
(DOE EM Dec. 24, 2015)
DOE seeks contractor for Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride Conversion Facilities
On April 1, 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued a Draft Request for Proposal (RFP) seeking a contractor to perform Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride (DUF6) Operations at the two DUF6 conversion facilities at Portsmouth, Ohio, and Paducah, Kentucky.
> View DOE EM release Apr. 1, 2015
On Sep. 8, 2015, DOE issued the Final Request for Proposal for the operation of the DUF6 conversion facilities.
Proposals are due on or before November 6, 2015.
> View DOE EM release Sep. 8, 2015
> View Operation of Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride (DUF6) Conversion Facilities Project (DOE EM)
Production of U.S. DOE Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride Conversion Facilities ramping up
The Department of Energy's DUF6 Project more than doubled its 2012 production with a total of 13,679 metric tons of DUF6 converted in FY 2013.
"From an initial conversion of 270 metric tons in FY 2011, when we demonstrated that the lines were operational, we have now converted more than 20,000 metric tons. In FY 2012, our production was 6,170 metric tons. And in FY 2013, we surpassed our goal of 12,685 metric tons and more than doubled '12 production. [...] Our goal now is to surpass a total of 22,700 metric tons processed in FY 2014, an increase of 60 percent," George E. Dials, BWCS president, said.
(Portsmouth Daily Times Nov. 11, 2013)
B&W Conversion Services takes over operations of US Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride conversion facilities
B&W Conversion Services LLC has assumed responsibility for the Department of Energy Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride (DUF6) Project for uranium conversion operations in Paducah (KY) and Portsmouth (OH).
March 29 marks the end of the 85-day transition period which began with the Department of Energy's "Notice to Proceed" issued January 3. BWCS -- a limited liability company created by Babcock and Wilcox Technical Services Group and URS Energy & Construction -- was awarded the five-year, $428 million contract on Dec. 8, 2010.
(Nuclear Engineering International March 29, 2011)
U.S. DOE awards contract for operations of Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride Conversion Facilities
The Energy Department awarded a five-year, $428 million contract for operations of the Depleted Uranium Hexaflouride facilities at both the Piketon site and one in Paducah, Ky.
The contract was awarded to Babcock & Wilcox Conversion Services , of Lynchburg, Va.
Under the terms of the contract, B&W will oversee the conversion of 700,000 metric ton inventory of DUF6 to a stable chemical form that can be disposed of, transportation or re-used. They will also be responsible for emptying and disposing of the 62,000 cylinders that have stored the DUF6.
(Chillicothe Gazette Dec. 8, 2010)
Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride Conversion Facility at Portsmouth officially opened
State and federal officials hailed the opening of a new uranium conversion plant Thursday (Sep. 9) - a move that will create 160 jobs at the site.
(Chillicothe Gazette Sep. 9, 2010)
Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride Conversion Facility at Portsmouth commences operation
EnergySolutions Inc., as the managing partner for Uranium Disposition Services (UDS), marked the commencement of the initial operation of the DUF6 Conversion Facility at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant.
EnergySolutions took control of the project in 2007 to manage the operational reviews and construction. The facilities will be used to convert DOE inventory of depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUF6) into a stable form for beneficial use, re-use and/or disposal.
(EnergySolutions Inc. June 3, 2010)
Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride Conversion Facility at Portsmouth completed
A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled to take place June 3, 2008, for a new plant that will convert into uranium oxide the depleted uranium generated during enrichment activities dating back to the 1950s at Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon.
The announcement of the plant's completion was made by the U.S. Department of Energy and Uranium Disposition Services LLC.
Officially called the Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride Conversion Facility, the plant will convert more than 250,000 metric tons of depleted uranium.
It reportedly will take about 18 years to convert the existing inventory of depleted uranium into uranium oxide at the plant in Piketon.
(Portsmouth Daily Times May 29, 2008)
DOE completes shipment of 6,000 Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride cylinders from Oak Ridge (Tennessee) to planned deconversion plant at Piketon (Ohio)
The U.S. Department of Energy completed the relocation of about 6,000 cylinders containing depleted uranium from the former Oak Ridge K-25 enrichment plant to Ohio.
Most of the uranium-loaded cylinders were transported by truck to a facility near Piketon, Ohio, where a company called Uranium Disposition Services will process the depleted uranium hexafluoride from Oak Ridge and other sites. The uranium will be converted to an oxide form for safer long-term storage or disposal, and the hydrogen fluoride will be extracted and sold commercially.
(Knoxville News Sentinel Dec. 18, 2006)
Construction of Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride Conversion Facilities delayed
Construction on a building to convert nuclear waste to a more stable form at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant is 12 to 14 months behind schedule, a Department of Energy official said on July 14, 2005. Portsmouth/Paducah Project Manager Bill Murphie said the delay came because Uranium Disposition Services was late in submitting design plans to the DOE for final approval.
(Portsmouth Daily Times, July 16, 2005)
Construction of the facility is 30 percent complete, said John McCoy, Uranium Disposition Services, LLC plant manager. He expects the facility to be complete by November 2006 and be in full operation in June 2008.
(Chillicothe Gazette June 28, 2006)
U.S. DOE applies for DOT exemption to transport overfilled DUF6 cylinders and/or cylinders without overpack
EPA continues to raise environmental concerns over Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride Conversion Facility project
"ERP No. F-DOE-E09014-KY Paducah, Kentucky, Site Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride Conversion Facility, Construction and Operation, McCraken
Federal Register: August 6, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 151) p. 47927 (download full text )
Summary: EPA continues to express concern since radiological
monitoring, appropriate storage and disposition of radioactive waste
will be necessary during the operation phase."
DOE issues Record of Decision for depleted uranium hexafluoride conversion facilites
On July 20, 2004, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued two Records of Decision (RODs) for construction and operation of Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride (DUF6) Conversion Plants at DOE's Kentucky and Ohio gaseous diffusion plants.
Plant groundbreaking events will be held in Paducah on July 27, 2004, and in Portsmouth on July 28, 2004.
> View DOE release July 20, 2004
DOE releases Final Environmental Impact Statements on depleted uranium hexafluoride conversion facilities
DUF6 Conversion Facility EISs
> See also: DOE NEPA
DOE's Inspector General proposes additional conversion line to reduce overall project cost
In an audit report released on March 18, 2004, DOE's Inspector General
"concluded that the Department's plan for converting depleted uranium hexafluoride inventories could be improved by adding an additional conversion line to the Portsmouth facility. Currently, plans call for three conversion lines, which will be capable of processing 13,500 metric tons of depleted uranium hexafluoride per year. By adding another conversion line, Portsmouth could process 4,500 metric tons of additional material annually and complete the project nearly 5 years earlier than planned. The facility size was not optimized because the Department's acquisition strategy emphasized initial capital costs rather than minimizing life-cycle costs. By increasing the production capacity at Portsmouth, the Department could shorten the duration of the Portsmouth conversion project by about 5 years and save about $55 million."
Audit Report, Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride Conversion, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Inspector General, Office of Audit Services, DOE/IG-0642, March 2004
> Download IG report (2M PDF)
DOE to start shipment of 2,900 Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride cylinders from Oak Ridge (Tennessee) to planned conversion plant at Piketon (Ohio)
The U.S. Department of Energy has reached an agreement with the State of Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to allow shipment of depleted uranium hexafluoride cylinders from the East Tennessee Technology Park in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant, in Piketon, Ohio.
The depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUF6) contained in the cylinders will be processed in a conversion plant to be built at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in the next few years. The shipments are scheduled to begin later in March 2004.
> View DOE release March 12, 2004
> Download DOE Fact Sheet (PDF)
EPA raises environmental concerns over Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride Conversion Facility project
"ERP No. D-DOE-F09004-OH Rating EC2, Portsmouth, Ohio Site Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride Conversion Facility, Construction and Operation,
Pike County, OH.
Summary: EPA has environmental concerns over the measurement units
and proper reference to NESHAP standards, and the cumulative effects of
the new enrichment facility that will be built on the site."
Federal Register: February 20, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 34) p. 7942
(download full text )
DOE releases Draft Environmental Impact Statements on depleted uranium hexafluoride conversion facilities for comment
DUF6 Conversion Facility EISs
> See also: DOE NEPA
Comments had to be submitted by February 2, 2004.
DOE releases transportation plan for upcoming uranium hexafluoride shipments
to planned conversion plant
On April 29, 2003, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released a transportation plan that provides details on plans to ship approximately 2,800 uranium hexafluoride cylinders from the DOE’s East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) to Portsmouth, Ohio. The majority of the material to be shipped to Portsmouth consists of depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUF6) that is derived from past uranium enrichment operations at ETTP. At Portsmouth, the DUF6 will be converted to a more stable form for future disposition.
The plan provides information on the upcoming shipments, including details on emergency preparedness training activities being performed in coordination with the States of Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio. DOE plans to begin shipments in 2003 with shipments to be completed by 2005. The remaining cylinders located at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) will be shipped after 2005 under a separate transportation plan to be developed.
> View DOE release April 29, 2003
> Download Transportation Plan for the Transport of ANSI N14.1-Compliant UF6 Cylinders from the East Tennessee Technology Park to the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Years 2003 through 2005, BJC/OR-1432 , April 2003 (2.7MB PDF)
DOE informs the public of the change in the approach for the NEPA review for the DUF6 conversion projects
Federal Register: April 28, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 81) p. 22368-22369
"[...] In light of Public Law 107-206 , and DOE's award of the contract to
Uranium Disposition Services, DOE reevaluated the appropriate scope of
its NEPA review and decided to prepare two separate EIS's, one for the
plant proposed for the Paducah site and a second for the Portsmouth
site. The proposed alternatives to be considered in each EIS would
focus primarily on where the conversion facilities will be sited at the
respective sites, and a no action alternative. DOE will also consider
impacts arising from shipment of ETTP cylinders for conversion to each
DOE awards DUF6 conversion contract
The US Department of Energy awarded to Uranium Disposition Services (UDS) a contract valued at $558-million to build two facilities to convert depleted uranium hexafluoride at three DOE sites to the more stable form of U3O8, which will then be suitable for final disposal. UDS -- a venture of Framatome ANP Inc, Duratek Federal Services Inc, and Burns and Roe Enterprises Inc -- will build conversion facilities at Paducah, Kentucky, and Portsmouth, Ohio. The contract also calls for the venture to operate the facilities for five years. DOE has some 700,000 metric tons of DUF6 currently in storage. It is estimated that conversion of all that material will take about 25 years.
(Platts 29 Aug 2002)
> View DOE release Aug. 29, 2002
DOE issues new schedule for DUF6 conversion facilities project
The draft EIS for the DUF6 Conversion Facilities is scheduled to be published by September 2002, and the final EIS is scheduled for December 2002.
(DOE June 2002)
Decision on DUF6 conversion project deferred
The contract for the acquisition of facilities and services for conversion of depleted Uranium Hexafluoride (DUF6) has not been awarded. The Department is reviewing its requirements for the number and location of conversion facilities to be constructed. The Department anticipates making this decision in early 2003 and will then continue the acquisition process. (DOE Apr. 8, 2002)
DOE invites public comments on the proposed scope of the
DUF6 conversion facilities EIS. The department has extended the written comment period an additional 46 days. To ensure consideration, comments now had to be postmarked by January 11, 2002.
> View DOE Release Oct. 30, 2001
> View Federal Register Notice, Sep 18, 2001
> See also Federal Register Notice, May 7, 2001
Background documents (DOE EAD):
The Department of Energy issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the design, construction and operation of new facilities at uranium enrichment plant sites in Ohio and Kentucky. Once built, these facilities will convert the federal government's large inventory of depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUF6) to a more stable form and prepare the material for disposal or potential reuse.
Proposals must be submitted by Feb.1, 2001, and the contract is expected to be awarded during the summer of 2001.
> View DOE release Oct. 31, 2000
> Download Request for Proposals
"The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today issued a solicitation seeking private sector solutions for converting tons of depleted uranium hexafluoride stored at government facilities in Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee to a safer form. The solicitation for 'Expressions of Interest,' asks private industry to submit innovative strategies for transforming the 700,000 metric tons of depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUF6) to a safer, more environmentally benign state. The DOE is seeking ideas from industry to help it construct the conversion plants at Paducah, Kentucky and Portsmouth, Ohio, well before the construction deadline of January 31, 2004."
(DOE News Release March 5, 1999 )
> View the complete solicitation of Expressions of Interest
> Download DOE's Final Plan for the Conversion of Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride , July 1999 (362k PDF format).
> View related DOE press release of July 6, 1999
> View DOE's Preconceptual Design Studies and Cost Data of Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride Conversion Plants (July 26, 1999).
On March 23, 2000, DOE announced a deferral of the plans for construction of the conversion facilities, to allow for an assesmment of the possible presence of transuranics such as plutonium and neptunium in its DU stockpile.
(DOE release March 23, 2000 )
On July 21, 1998, President Clinton signed legislation that will provide $400 million to build uranium-recycling plants in Ohio and Kentucky. The new plants will treat and recycle depleted uranium, getting rid of some of the 40,000 leftover uranium cylinders that are stacked around the Piketon and Paducah sites. The cylinders represent a liability of more than $4 billion, according to the Department of Energy. Construction must start no later than Jan. 31, 2004, but it could begin as early as the end of next year. (from AP July 21, 1998)
> Public Law 105-204: View Text · Download PDF
Cylinders storing depleted uranium at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant may be corroding because of toxic phosgene gas mistakenly left in them, according to a federal memo obtained by The Courier-Journal.
About 1,825 cylinders at the plant previously had been used to store phosgene, a chemical warfare gas, according to the Sep. 30, 2005, memo from the Department of Energy Inspector General's Office to nuclear facilities in Paducah, Kentucky; Oak Ridge, Tenn.; and Portsmouth, Ohio.
The phosgene gas, according to the memo's preliminary findings, could be present in about 2,500 cylinders the government acquired during the Cold War from the Army's Chemical Warfare Service in the 1940s and '50s.
Investigators said there are "as many as" 309 cylinders in storage at Oak Ridge, 406 at Portsmouth and 1,825 at Paducah.
The issues regarding the cylinders are: does enough phosgene remain to endanger workers or the public, will the gas corrode the tanks and cause a leak, and could the gas cause a dangerous reaction during a proposed conversion process?
(Courier Journal, October 25, 2005)
Congress has been asked to order an independent study of whether toxic phosgene gas left in depleted uranium cylinders poses a danger at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.
A House-Senate conference committee approved the study on Monday night (Nov. 7, 2005).
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., inserted the study order in the final spending bill for energy and water programs and projects, which was approved by the conference committee. McConnell was a member of the committee.
The measure is expected to pass the House and Senate this week and be sent to President Bush.
(Courier Journal Nov. 9, 2005)
The report, released on June 15, 2006, cannot rule out the possibility of phosgene still being present in depleted uranium hexafluoride cylinders:
"This report documents work aimed at determining whether phosgene (COCl2) could survive the chemical environment of a UF6 cylinder from the time of filling with liquid UF6 many years ago to the present day.
Investigation of the Chemical Reactivity of Phosgene in Uranium Hexafluoride (2.6 MB PDF), by L. D. Trowbridge and D. W. Simmons, ORNL/TM-2006/50, April 2006
Information was obtained from the scientific literature, from thermodynamic calculations, and from limited laboratory experimentation. The conclusion derived from this work is that COCl2 is more resistant to chemical reaction than expected. We have demonstrated that at least a portion could survive the short-term contact with liquid UF6 during cylinder filling. We cannot say from the information developed whether it could survive the long-term contact at lower temperature."
On May 31, 2007, the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report
finding that DOE's phosgene characterization study was flawed because investigators did not document parts of the work.
The report also said some U.S. Department of Energy employees reviewing the study may have had a conflict of interest because they took part in the initial inspection. (Herald Leader June 4, 2007)
United States Government Accountability Office: DOE's Investigation of Phosgene Gas Contamination Was Inadequate, but Experts Conclude That Worker Safety and Facilities Are Not Threatened , May 2007 (PDF)
On Aug. 28, 2003, DOE amended the 1999 Record of Decision for the Long-Term Management and Use of DUF6: "The DOE has now decided to transfer up to 1,700 of the approximately 4,700 cylinders containing DUF6 from the East
Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to its storage facilities at DOE's enrichment facility at Portsmouth, Ohio, between 2003 and 2005."
> See Federal Register: September 11, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 176) p. 53603-53605 (download full text )
On August 2, 1999, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson signed the Record of Decision for the Long-Term Management and Use of DUF6.
> Download DUF6 ROD (59k PDF format)
> View related notice in Federal Register: August 10, 1999 (Vol. 64, No. 153)
p. 43358-43364 (download full text ).
On April 22, 1999, U.S. DOE released the
Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Alternative Strategies for the Long-Term Management and Use of Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride, U.S. Department of Energy, DOE/EIS-0269, April 1999
> View Notice of availability (Federal Register April 29, 1999)
> View DOE Press Release (April 22, 1999)
> Download PEIS from ANL or DOE EH
The PEIS assesses the potential environmental impacts of alternative strategies for the long-term management and use of 739,000 metric tonnes of depleted uranium hexafluoride (UF6) currently stored in cylinders at the three gaseous diffusion plant sites located near Paducah, Kentucky; Portsmouth, Ohio; and Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
Compared to the Draft PEIS, the preferred alternative has been revised to begin conversion of the UF6 to safer chemical forms as soon as possible, independent of the identification of potential uses of the material.
Excerpts from the Final PEIS Executive Summary:
"DOE's preferred alternative is to begin conversion of the UF6 inventory as soon as possible, either to uranium oxide, uranium metal, or a combination of both, while allowing for use of as much of this inventory as possible. Conversion to oxide for use or long-term storage would begin as soon as practicable, with conversion to metal occurring only if uses are identified. The preferred alternative would allow beneficial use of the material with regard to environmental, economic, technical, and other factors." [...]
"Large-scale uses for the depleted uranium products are under development. These uses include radiation-shielding applications, in which uranium oxide is used as a substitute for the aggregate in concrete. Concrete made with depleted uranium would be a more effective shielding material than conventional concrete and would provide the same level of radiation shielding with less thickness than conventional concrete. Among other uses, this concrete could be fabricated into casks for storage of spent nuclear fuel or HLW.
In addition to the above potential large-scale uses of the depleted UF6, small-scale use of some depleted UF6 is being considered in industrial applications and by other DOE program decisions and NEPA analyses, such as that for the disposition of surplus plutonium." [...]
For details, see Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (U.S. DOE Argonne National Laboratory - Environmental Assessment Division)
In addition, the full text of the following reports is available for download from LLNL Documents On-Line :
- Engineering analysis report for the long-term management of depleted uranium hexafluoride: (Summary: Download PDF 98k ) · Select and download full text: Vol. 1 · Vol. 2
- Cost Analysis Report for the long-term management of depleted uranium hexafluoride: (Summary: Download PDF 221k ) · download full text (PDF, 19 MB)
> View IEER comments on the draft PEIS (March 1998)
> View What's Ahead for the Nation's Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride? by Mary Byrd Davis, Yggdrasil Institute (May 1999)