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Current Issues - Civilian Use of Depleted Uranium

(last updated 31 May 2024)



Use of Depleted Uranium in Production and Disposal of Nuclear Fuel

Re-enrichment (Tails-Upgrading)

See also: Uranium Enrichment Tails Upgrading

Tails upgrading - General

Microalgae might be suitable for re-enrichment of depleted uranium, study

"[...] Our results indicate that the cells of two microalgal strains (freshwater Chlamydomonas sp. (ChlGS) and marine Tetraselmis mediterranea (TmmRU)) took up DU from the exposure solutions, inducing U isotopic fractionation with a preference for the fissile 235U isotope over 238U. The n(235U)/n(238U) isotopic fractionation magnitudes (δ235) were 23.6 ± 12.5‰ and 370.4 ± 103.9‰, respectively. These results open up new perspectives on the re-enrichment of DU tailings, offering a potential biological alternative to obtain reprocessed natural-equivalent uranium. [...]"
Baselga-Cervera B, García-Balboa C, López-Rodas V, et al.: Evidence of microalgal isotopic fractionation through enrichment of depleted uranium, in: Scientific Reports, Vol. 9, No. 1, Feb. 13, 2019, p. 1973

Tails upgrading in USA

U.S. DOE sells depleted uranium tails for re-enrichment at Paducah Laser Enrichment Facility project (Kentucky)

> View here

Depressed uranium market hampering project of laser enrichment plant for tails re-enrichment at Paducah

> View here

DOE selects GLE proposal for re-enrichment of depleted uranium stocks with laser-based uranium enrichment plant to be built at Paducah site

> View here

Urenco USA plans to re-enrich depleted uranium

> View here

Companies submit proposal for continued operation of Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant for re-enrichment of depleted uranium (Kentucky)

> View here

GE-Hitachi proposes to build laser-based uranium enrichment plant at Paducah site

> View here

Silex evaluates opportunity to build laser enrichment plant in Paducah, Kentucky, to re-enrich depleted uranium

> View here

Shutdown of Paducah gaseous diffusion enrichment plant deferred for one year -- to re-enrich depleted uranium for military purposes

> View here

Utility to buy unneeded re-enriched uranium to keep Paducah gaseous diffusion enrichment plant busy, as DOE lacks budget for decommissioning (!)

> View here

ConverDyn and Urenco USA announce "Competitive American Tails Upgrade Partnership"

On 20áOctober 2011, ConverDyn and Urenco USA announced the Competitive American Tails Upgrade Partnership (CATUP). The two companies have created CATUP in order to be responsive to potential U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) interest in upgrading and managing stocks of depleted uranium.

House Subcommittee to hold hearing on bill proposing re-enrichment of uranium tails at Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant

On June 3, 2011, U.S. Representative Ed Whitfield, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power, announced this his subcommittee will hold a hearing on legislation he recently introduced to re-enrich spent uranium tails currently being stored at U.S. Department of Energy enrichment plants in Paducah, Kentucky and in Portsmouth, Ohio. Whitfield's legislation, known as the Energy and Revenue Enrichment Act of 2011 (H.R. 2054 - PDF) will be considered by the Subcommittee on Monday, June 13, 2011, at 1:30 p.m.
> View Committee announcement
> Download Statement of Gene Aloise, Director Natural Resources and Environment, U.S. Government Accountability Office: Nuclear Material: DOE's Depleted Uranium Tails Could Be a Source of Revenue for the Government , GAO-11-752T, U.S. Government Accountability Office, June 13, 2011 (436kB PDF)
> See also: 2012 Annual Report, Opportunities to Reduce Duplication, Overlap and Fragmentation, Achieve Savings, and Enhance Revenue, GAO-12-342SP , Feb 28, 2012, U.S. Government Accountability Office

DOE has no plan for re-enriching uranium tails at Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant

> View here

DOE presents re-enrichment options for its higher assay depleted uranium tails

"DOE will consider the sale of DUF6 or re-enrichment to natural uranium or LEU to realize the best value for the Government. The DOE inventory of 75,300 MTU of DU having an assay from 0.35 percent 235U to 0.711 percent 235U is currently scheduled for conversion to a more stable form, followed by its re-use or disposal. However, as the price of NU has increased the value of the relatively higher assay DU makes it potentially attractive for reenrichment. Enriched to 0.711 percent 235U, the DU could produce about 25,950 MTU of NU as UF6. DOE has estimated that the gross value of this uranium would be approximately $5.6 billion based on the April 2008 market price for uranium. The net value is estimated to be about $3.4 billion after re-enrichment, depending on the actual SWU price. 1" (Excess Uranium Inventory Management Plan, Dec. 16, 2008)
1 Uranium Exchange (Ux) Corporation's month end spot price of $78.00 per pound of U3O8, conversion price of $9.00 kgU, NU UF6 price of $215 kgU and SWU price of $143.
For the NU contained, DOE assumes an average DU assay of 0.366% 235U and a secondary tails assay of 0.20% 235U.
NU = Natural Uranium, MTU = Metric tons of uranium

> See also: DOE issues Excess Uranium Inventory Management Plan
> See also: Depleted Uranium Value Calculator

GAO urges DOE to hurry up with assessment of re-enrichment options for its depleted uranium tails

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report urging the Department of Energy (DOE) to complete an analysis of the management options for its stocks of depleted uranium tails. GAO wants the DOE to consider the options for re-enrichment and/or sale of the unprocessed tails, to take advantage of the currently high market price for uranium.
Since DOE's legal authority to sell the unprocessed tails is doubtful, GAO moreover asks Congress to grant such legal authority.

Nuclear Material: DOE Has Several Potential Options for Dealing with Depleted Uranium Tails, Each of Which Could Benefit the Government, U.S. Government Accountability Office, GAO-08-606R, March 31, 2008
> Download full report (213k PDF)

On April 3, 2008, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing titled: Selling the Department of Energy's Depleted Uranium Stockpile: Opportunities and Challenges

Life extension of Paducah enrichment plant by re-enrichment of depleted uranium?

> View here

USEC to re-enrich depleted uranium for U.S. DOE

DOE has agreed to transfer up to 8.5-million kilograms of depleted uranium to the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) for re-enrichment by USEC Inc. and use in Energy Northwest's (EN) Columbia BWR over the period 2009 to 2017. DOE has some 700,000 metric tons of depleted uranium but only a small percentage are at assays above 0.4% U-235 and therefore clearly economical in today's market to re-enrich, according to a source familiar with what he described as this "pilot" program. He said that if all 8.5-million kg were re-enriched, it might generate about 1.9-million kg of natural UF6, and could save EN millions of dollars in fuel costs if today's UF6 prices remain at current market levels (about $87.25/kgU as UF6). But the actual feasibility of recycling DOE's depleted UF6 for use in a commercial reactor has not been tested, he said, given questions over how much of the depleted uranium is contaminated with unwanted radioactive isotopes. This pilot project will provide DOE with the information to support a decision regarding any subsequent action to reuse any of the remaining DUF6 inventory, he said. (Platts 6 July 2005)

> See also: Re-enrichment of depleted uranium tails in Gaseous Diffusion Plants (300k PDF)
> See also: Compostion of the U.S. DOE Depleted Uranium Inventory (70k PDF)
> See also: Fact Sheet: Hazards from depleted uranium produced from reprocessed uranium (290k PDF)

Tails upgrading in Western Europe


Dutch regulator issues odd license for transport of uranium hexafluoride feed and tails between Urenco's Gronau plant in Germany and its Almelo plant in the Netherlands - additional traffic to be caused for re-enrichment of depleted uranium?
> View details

"Areva (Eurodif) has fed tails through GBI [Georges Besse I gaseous diffusion plant in Tricastin].
URENCO has fed and will re-feed tails in its own plants over the next few years."
(Management of Depleted Uranium in Europe, presentation by Steve Threlfall, General Manager, Uranium Supply, URENCO, Inc., at NEI International Uranium Fuel Seminar, October 23-26, 2011)

Tails upgrading in Russia


Angarsk uranium enrichment plant producing 2,500 t U annually by re-enriching depleted uranium tails
> See here

Rosatom still sees secondary tails from re-enrichment of depleted uranium as a resource
[...] The state corporation also explained the sequence of handling DUHF [depleted uranium hexafluoride]. "The enrichment of depleted uranium is a widespread practice in the world. Contrary to the voices voiced in public space, foreign depleted uranium is imported into Russia not for disposal, but for enrichment: the resulting product (enriched uranium) is exported," Rosatom notes.
"Rosatom using the technology of defluorination converts the material that remains after enrichment (secondary DUHF) into a chemically safe form of uranium oxide (depleted uranium oxide)," the response says.
According to the state corporation, the use of this technology produces double-depleted uranium oxide, which is the raw material for the production of the so-called MOX fuel for fast neutron reactors. "The reserves of DUFU are a strategic reserve for providing fuel for the nuclear energy industry of the future," Rosatom explains. (RIA Novosti Nov. 10, 2019)

[France's Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN), however, found that the consumption of existing stocks in future fast breeder reactors would require several millenia already (see here)]

Russia has no contracts to import any more depleted uranium hexafluoride (tails)
At the end of December the public council of Rosatom, Russia's state nuclear corporation, held its year-end meeting at which Rosatom head Sergei Kiriyenko presented two planned reports containing the short conclusions on his company's performance in 2010.
The most important thing that Kiriyenko said while conversing about depleted uranium hexafluoride was that at present Russia had no contracts to accept any more uranium tails and that there are no new contracts to do so. (Aleksandr Nikitin, Bellona Jan. 25, 2011)

Rosatom confirms termination of re-enrichment of imported depleted uranium tails in 2011
Rosatom confirmed that the re-enrichment of foreign depleted uranium tails will be terminated in 2011. The current contracts expire in 2009 and 2010, and they won't be renewed, nor will any new contracts be concluded, a Rosatom expert confirmed. (RIA Novosti March 19, 2009)

Russia to terminate re-enrichment of imported depleted uranium tails, once current contracts expire
Over a year ago, Rosatom, the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency, decided not to sign new contracts for imports of depleted uranium from Europe for enrichment and plans only to implement contracts signed in the 1990s, Atomic Energy Agency Director Sergei Kirienko told journalists in Angarsk. "We decided over a year ago that we would not sign new contracts or extend old ones, but we cannot tear up agreements that we already have - they expire in 2009-2010," he said. "We consider it incorrect to import hexafluoride until the issue of its potential chemical danger is resolved," Kirienko said. Kirienko said that contracts to import depleted uranium from Europe were signed in the 1990s "at a good price." (Interfax June 22, 2007)

Protest in Irkutsk against import of depleted uranium tails from Western Europe to Russia
> See here

Protest in Moscow against import of depleted uranium tails from Germany to Russia
On Oct. 12, 2006, environmentalists staged a brief protest in front of Germany's embassy in Moscow against long-standing shipments of German nuclear waste to Russia. Brandishing a banner scrawled with "Stop the entry of nuclear waste", a dozen Germans and Russians demonstrated for about 10 minutes before the Russian protesters were seized, handcuffed and hauled away by police.
"German authorities must stop burying radioactive waste in Russia which threatens the health of future generations of Russians," Vladimir Sliviak of the Russian environmental group Ecodefense, said in a statement. "German authorities must not take advantage of the fact that the Russian atomic industry can violate laws and ignore public opinion," he added.
According the Ecodefense, some 100,000 tons of nuclear waste have been imported to Russia over the past decade. Up to 90 percent of the waste is stored by Russian companies, awaiting final disposal, the group said. The radioactive material arrives in Saint Petersburg's port in the northern part of the country, Ecodefense said, where it is carried by train toward the Ural mountains, and western and eastern Siberia. (Ecodefense Oct. 12, 2006)

Protests in Tomsk against import of depleted uranium tails from Western Europe to Russia
On August 1, 2006, activists from ten Russian cities protested in Tomsk against the import of depleted uranium tails from Western Europe for re-enrichment in Russia. They were participants of an anti-nuclear camp held by the organisation Ecodefense from July 26 to August 3, 2006. (Ecodefense July 26 and Aug. 1, 2006)

Russia could expand re-enrichment of foreign depleted uranium tails
Russia could increase its share of the global market for the treatment of depleted uranium to 45% by 2010, from 40% at present, Vladimir Korotkevich, director of the state-owned Siberian Chemical Combine at Tomsk, told reporters. He also said that Techsnabexport, the Russian government's authorized exporter of nuclear materials and nuclear power plant fuel, had contracts worth more than $3 billion annually to process depleted uranium hexafluoride from abroad. This does not include contracts signed under the Megatons to Megawatts deal with the United States. (Interfax Dec. 28, 2005)

Ecodefense calls for end of import of depleted uranium tails from Western Europe to Russia, releases detailed report on re-enrichment business
On August 2, 2005, Ecodefense Russia held a press conference in Moscow demanding an end to the imports of depleted uranium tails to Russia for re-enrichment. Since the secondary tails remain in Russia, the import would represent an illegal import of radioactive waste.
> View Ecodefense release Aug. 2, 2005 (in Russian)
> View Bellona article Aug. 4, 2005

At the occasion of this press conference, Ecodefense released a detailed report on this issue titled "Re-enrichment of West European Depleted Uranium Tails in Russia".
> View abstract and download report.

On August 6, 2005, Ecodefense opened the 6th Antinuclear Camp near the Urals Electrochemical integrated plant, where part of the re-enrichment takes place. The camp will be open for one week.
On August 11, 2005, a protest action with 40 participants was held at Ekaterinburg against the tails import from West European countries to Russia. One activist was detained.
> View Ecodefense release Aug. 11, 2005 (in Russian, with photos)


Upgrading of French enrichment tails in Russia

A detailed analysis of the material flux can be found in the report:
Avis sur la transparence de la gestion des matières et des déchets nucléaires produits aux différents stades du cycle du combustible , Haut Comité pour la Transparence et l'Information sur la Sécurité Nucléaire, 12 juillet 2010 (HCTISN - in French)

Penalties imposed on Greenpeace for blocking trains carrying depleted uranium destined for Russia
Penalties between 400 and 700 Euros have been imposed on 18 Greenpeace activists and 18,000 Euros on the organization for blocking trains carrying depleted uranium destined for Russia. The blockades had taken place at Cherbourg in December 2009 and January 2010. (L'Express Feb. 1, 2011)

Transport of depleted uranium from France to Russia to end in July 2010
Areva has announced to end the transport of depleted uranium from France to Russia from July 2010. The depleted uranium will rather be stored at Areva's Bessines storage site. (L'Express May 28, 2010)

Greenpeace protests arrival of French depleted uranium hexafluoride in St. Petersburg
Greenpeace activists held a rally on Tuesday (Apr. 13) in St. Petersburg against a shipment of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) belonging to the French nuclear energy group Areva, the environmental group said. The Russian Kapitan Kuroptev vessel was greeted by Greenpeace banners in French and Russian declaring that "Russia is not a nuclear dump." (RIA Novosti Apr. 13, 2010)

In the North Sea, Greenpeace attaches protest banner at vessel carrying depleted uranium from France to Russia
On April 8, 2010, in the North Sea off the Belgian coast, Greenpeace attached a protest banner at the Russian vessel Kapitan Kuroptev. The vessel shipped depleted uranium from Le Havre to St Petersburg for re-enrichment in Russia. (Greenpeace France 8 April 2010)

At Tricastin, Greenpeace blocks train carrying depleted uranium destined for Russia
On April 6, 2010, Greenpeace blocked a train carrying depleted uranium from the Tricastin nuclear site to Russia. Greenpeace dismantled part of the track leading to the Pierrelatte site, and three activists chained themselves to the track. (L'Express Apr. 6, 2010)

Greenpeace protests in St Petersburg and Moscow against import of French depleted uranium to Russia
On March 24, 2010, the day after the arrival of the Russian cargo vessel Kapitan Kuroptev in St Petersburg, Greenpeace staged protests in front of the consulate of France in St Petersburg. On the same day at Moscow, five Greenpeace activists blocked the entry of the French embassy for 40 minutes. (L'Express Mar. 24, 2010)

Greenpeace protests in Moscow against import of French depleted uranium to Russia
On Mar. 17, 2010, Greenpeace activists held a demonstration in front of Areva's Moscow office against the arrival of a further shipment of depleted uranium from France. A Russian vessel departed from Brest (Western France) on March 12 with a cargo of uranium owned by Electricité de France (EDF) and Areva is expected to arrive in St Petersburg on March 18 or 19. The uranium is to be re-enriched in Russia. (L'Express Mar. 17, 2010)

At harbor of Montoir-de-Bretagne, Greenpeace disturbs loading of vessel destined for Russia with depleted uranium hexafluoride
For six hours on March 12, 2010, Greenpeace disturbed the loading of the Russian vessel Kapitan Kuroptev with a trainload of 600 tonnes of depleted uranium hexafluoride in the harbor of Montoir-de-Bretagne (Loire-Atlantique). (Libération, Mar. 12, 2010)

Near Paris, Greenpeace blocks train carrying depleted uranium hexafluoride destined for Russia, calls for moratorium on nuclear waste exports
For several hours during the night of March 10, 2010, twelve Greenpeace activists blocked a train at the shunting yard of Villeneuve-Saint-Georges (Val-de-Marne) near Paris. The train carried depleted uranium hexafluoride originating from Eurodif's Pierrelatte enrichment plant to the harbor of Montoire-de-Bretagne (Loire-Atlantique), for further shipment to Russia on board of the Russian vessel Kapitan Kuroptev.
According to Areva, the depleted uranium, owned by EDF and Areva, is to be re-enriched in Russia for later use in French reactors. Greenpeace calls for a moratorium on nuclear waste exports. (L'Express Mar. 11, 2010)

At Tricastin, Greenpeace blocks train carrying depleted uranium hexafluoride destined for Russia
In the morning of Feb. 16, 2010, Greenpeace blocked a transport of depleted uranium meant to leave the Eurodif enrichment plant at Tricastin. The train should bring the uranium across France to Cherbourg, from where it is to be shipped on the Russian vessel Kapitan Kuroptev to Russia.

At Cherbourg, activisits block train carrying depleted uranium hexafluoride destined for Russia
On Jan. 24, 2010, members of Greenpeace and other anti-nuclear organizations chained themselves to a railway track to halt a transport of nuclear material destined for export to Russia. According to Areva, the transport comprises 480 tonnes of depleted uranium and 170 tonnes of natural uranium originiating from Areva's Pierrelatte plant. Areva maintains that the depleted uranium is no waste, since it is to be re-enrichred in Russia. (Le Figaro Jan. 24, 2010)
The Russian vessel, the Kapitan Kuroptev arrived in St. Petersburg on Feb. 1, 2010. While Russia's state-controlled civilian nuclear energy corporation Rosatom maintains that shipments of uranium hexafluoride will be halted by the end of 2010, Areva is determined to hold to contract conditions which it says expire in 2014, Greenpeace said on its Russian website. (RIA Novosti Feb. 1, 2010)
On Feb. 1, 2010, Russian environmental activists protested the arrival of the transport in St Petersburg. (RFE/RL Feb. 2, 2010)

At Cherbourg, Greenpeace blocks train carrying depleted uranium hexafluoride destined for Russia
In the morning of Dec. 7, 2009, French police removed a Greenpeace activist from a rail track at Cherbourg, to which he had chained himself the evening before to protest against an imminent transport of depleted uranium hexafluoride from Pierrelatte, destined for shipment to Russia. (Greenpeace France Dec. 7, 2009)

Export statistics for depleted uranium from France to Russia
YearDU exports [t U]
Source: Haut Comité pour la Transparence et l'Information sur la Sécurité Nucléaire , Nov. 2009

Protest in St Petersburg against arrival of depleted uranium shipment from France
On Dec. 11, 2008, ecologists from the local branch of Bellona, an international environmental pressure group Bellona protested outside the French Consulate General in St. Petersburg as cargo containing toxic uranium derivatives arrived in the city's port. The hazardous cargo arrived in St. Petersburg on board the Zamoskvorechiye, a ship belonging to French company Eurodif which is carrying containers holding a total of 2,000 tons of depleted uranium hexafluoride from the Tricastin Nuclear Power Center in Pierrelatte, France. The ship left the French port of Havre on Dec. 4. For about two hours, six protestors picketed the French consulate one at a time to avoid laws against unplanned free association of people in public places. (St. Petersburg Times Dec. 12, 2008)

Bellona stages protest against arrival of depleted uranium shipment from France at St Petersburg port (Russia)
Amid demands by environmentalists that French nuclear waste deliveries to Russia via St. Petersburg cease, the French vessel Captain Lus put in to port in this city at 6:00 p.m. local time laden with depleted uranium hexafluoride, known as uranium tailings. In protest of the ship's arrival, Bellona stages a series of rotating one-person protests in front of the French consulate on the Moika Embankment in St. Petersburg. (Bellona May 30, 2008)

Greenpeace tries to block entry of depleted uranium shipment from France into St Petersburg port (Russia)
On Dec. 7, 2005, Greenpeace Russia tried to block the entry of the container ship "Kapitan Kuroptev" into the port of St Petersburg. The ship carried 450 t of depleted uranium waste from France, being sent to Russia for re-enrichment. Three boats with 11 activists on board tried to stand in the ship's way, burning signal lights and putting buoys warning of a floating radiation hazard. However, the ship picked up speed and used water cannons, and the activists had to retreat. (RIA Novosti Dec. 7, 2005)
> Download: International trade in wastes of the nuclear industry based on the example of depleted uranium hexafluoride , Greenpeace report, Dec. 6, 2005, (in Russian)

Greenpeace blocks depleted uranium export to Russia at Le Havre (France)
On Dec. 1, 2005, Greenpeace France blocked a transport of 450 t of uranium wastes at Le Havre. The material was to be exported to Russia. It consisted mainly of depleted uranium, to be re-enriched in Russia, and possibly some reprocessed uranium (RepU) (view details), to be swapped to natural uranium. It had arrived by train from the enrichment plant at Pierrelatte, and was to be loaded on the container ship "Kapitan Kuroptev" for sea transport to St Petersburg. (Greenpeace France, Dec. 1, 2005)
> Download: Europe's radioactive secret - how EDF and European nuclear utilities are dumping nuclear waste in the Russian Federation , Greenpeace International Briefing paper, November 18th 2005 (in English)
> Download: Note d'information: Comment eDF et les opérateurs électriques européens exportent leurs déchets nucléaires en Russie , Greenpeace, Novembre 2005 (in French)
Vladimir Korotkevich, director of the state-owned Siberian Chemical Combine at Tomsk, where some of the re-enrichment takes place, alleges this blockade was initiated and paid for by competitors of the Russian enrichment facilities(!) (Interfax Dec. 28, 2005). This allegation shows, what serious blow the dragging of the re-enrichment business into the limelight presents to the Russian enrichers...


Cogema ships about 7,000 MTU [metric tonnes U] of tails (at an assay of about 0.35%) to Russia each year, according to an RWE Nukem analysis. In addition to 1,100 MTU of natural uranium, Cogema also receives back about 130 MT of low-enriched uranium at an assay of about 3.5% U-235. (Nuclear Fuel May 12, 2003)

> For details on this issue, view the report "Re-enrichment of West European Depleted Uranium Tails in Russia".

Cogéma sends "a very small percentage" of the enrichment tails of its Eurodif plant to Russia for re-enrichment. (Nuclear Fuel Dec. 28, 1998)


Tails upgrading: world's largest uranium "mine"?

"Minatom/Tenex has an estimated 9-million SWU/year of enrichment production capacity in excess of Russia's needs. If Russia uses the 9-million SWU to strip tails from Urenco and other Western enrichers with 0.30% uranium-235 to 0.20% U-235, it would produce 29 million lb of uranium oxide (U3O8) (11,180 tonnes U) per year. It is likely, according to George White, a consultant with Uranium Exchange Co., the Russians have contracted with Urenco to strip tails from 0.3% to 0.25% U-235. But then the Russians probably stripped the tails further, to 0.12 U-235, to produce uranium for their own account and selling it, White suggested. Stripping of uranium tails in this way would reduce the need for natural uranium by about 30%." (WISE NEWS COMMUNIQUE 502, November 13, 1998)
If Russia used its excess 9 million SWU/year to strip Urenco's tails in the described way from 0.3% to 0.12% U-235, 7290 tonnes/year of uranium of natural isotope composition would be recovered, 4680 tonnes of which on Russia's own account.

> See also: Uranium Enrichment Tails Upgrading · Uranium Re-Enrichment / Tails Upgrading Calculator


South African enrichment tails delivered to Russia for upgrading

From a press release of Edlow of June 16, 1998:
" Using a chartered ocean vessel, Edlow International Company delivered 140 cylinders of depleted uranium to Russia on May 29, 1998. Shipped in 48 inch cylinders, the shipment consisted of 461,871 kilograms uranium hexafluoride (UF6). Originating in South Africa, the shipment is significant as it represents half of South Africa's depleted UF6 inventory. The remainder of the country's depleted UF6 will be shipped to Russia at a later date.

This shipment was performed by Edlow International under contract to Edlow Resources Ltd. (an Edlow family company) in connection with Edlow Resource's purchase of 2,000 tonnes of depleted UF6 from the Atomic Energy Corporation of South Africa (AEC). The AEC has no remaining use for the material, as it closed its enrichment facility - the Z plant - in March 1995.

The depleted UF6 will be re-enriched in Russia and the resulting enriched product will be sold to electricity utilities for use in commercial nuclear power generation. As such, the transaction represents a positive use of what is often regarded as a waste product."

> See also: Uranium Enrichment Tails Upgrading


Upgrading of Urenco's enrichment tails in Russia

The centrifuge enrichment plant of Minatom's Ural Electrochemical Integrated Plant (UEChK, formerly Sverdlovsk-44) at Novouralsk near Ekaterinburg is now enriching tails for Urenco. The tails are enriched to a natural uranium equivalent level of 0.71% U- 235. In 1996, more than 6000 metric tonnes of tails were upgraded. [Nuclear Fuel, October 6, 1997]
In 1998, 2,228 metric tonnes of tails were exported to Russia from Urenco's Gronau (Germany) plant alone [Nuclear Fuel, Feb. 21, 2000].

According to Euratom Supply Agency's Annual Report 1998 (p.10), "Re-enrichment of western origin tails in Russia [...] provides a supply in the order of 1 000 to 2 000 tU (natural uranium equivalent) per year." If Scenario 1 is assumed for the mass balance, this means that 13,600 to 27,200 t depleted UF6 would be shipped to Russia per year - two to four times the amount reported for 1996. As a by-product from the re-enrichment of this amount of material, 12,100 to 24,200 t of secondary tails would be produced per year.
For the production of the above amount of depleted UF6, Urenco would have to expend a separative work of 5.9 to 11.8 million SWU - much more than its present capacity of 3.4 million SWU. It can, therefore, be concluded that Urenco is currently in the process of drawing down its depleted UF6 inventory at high pressure.
According to Euratom Supply Agency's Annual Report 1999 (p.10), "In 1999, deliveries of re-enriched tails to EU utilities represented some 800 tU."
According to Euratom Supply Agency's Annual Report 2000 (p.9), "Re-enrichment in Russia for EU enrichers of western origin tails continued in 2000. Deliveries of re-enriched tails to EU utilities represented some 400 tU under purchasing contracts plus 700 tU acquired through exchanges. The Agency concluded 4 new supply contracts for the delivery of about 600 tU as re-enriched tails over the period 2001-2005."
According to Euratom Supply Agency's Annual Report 2001 (p.17), "some 1050 [tU] were delivered to EU utilities following the re-enrichment in Russia of tails on behalf of European enrichers", and "3 new supply contracts for the delivery of 760 tU as re-enriched tails in 2002-2004 have been concluded".
"A report presented earlier this year [2003] at a World Nuclear Association working group meeting by an RWE Nukem analyst, suggested that Urenco ships about 7,000 metric tons (MT) U of tails (average assay 0.30% U-235) to Russia for re-enrichment every year and receives back about 1,100 MTU of natural uranium." (Nuclear Fuel May 12, 2003)

German exports of depleted uranium (kg U as UF6) to Russia for re-enrichment:
1991 - 1995No exports
1996 502,395
1997 2,404,585
20032,073,411  2,073,411
20041,204,814  1,204,814
2005651,419  651,419
20062,503,950  2,503,950
20073,132,014  3,132,014
20082,506,704  2,506,704
2009 (Jan-Jun)860,821  860,821
[Source: Bundestags-Drucksachen 14/5638 (March 23, 2001) (PDF), 14/6692 (July 16, 2001) , 16/5381 (May 18, 2007) , 17/253 (Dec. 16, 2009) (PDF)]

> See also Depleted uranium export statistics for Germany
> See also Uranium Re-Enrichment / Tails Upgrading Calculator

According to the answer of the German government (BT-Drs. 13/8810 ) to a parliamentary question of the Greens, the new tails produced during this upgrading process remain in Russia.
Since the upgrading process results only in a minor reduction of the amount of tails, Urenco's main purpose of the deal seems to be to get rid of its waste management problem.
The Federal Government, however, stresses the results of an investigation it has conducted together with the governments of the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. The study has approved that the re-enrichment in Russia is not connected to a management of residues violating international rules, standards, or obligations.

But, this view must be questioned, since the tails upgrading does not make an economic sense, if the recovery of the uranium were its only purpose: under current market conditions, the recovered uranium would be 68% more expensive than fresh uranium, and Urenco would incur a loss of $1700 per t UF6 sent to Minatom. *)
The re-enrichment does, however, make sense, if the avoided disposal cost for the tails in the proposed Gorleben HLW deposit are taken into consideration (the German LLW deposits don't allow for storage of such amounts of uranium). The excess upgrading cost over the market value of the uranium recovered would be about 10% only of the storage cost at Gorleben, and Urenco would make a profit of $17300 per t UF6 sent to Minatom. *)

*) These figures are calculated on current market prices, a product assay of 3.6% (PWR grade) and a tails assay of 0.3% at Urenco [IAEA 1996 Red Book], and an assumed tails assay of 0.25% at Minatom. The upgrading process would reduce the amount of tails by 10% only under these conditions. The storage cost for a 200-liter barrel at the Gorleben HLW deposit is estimated at 15,000 DM; the volume needed for disposal of the tails as UO2 after cementation in barrels is estimated at 550 litre/t UO2.

"Both Areva and URENCO held contracts with Tenex to take depleted uranium produced at European plants for re-enrichment in Russia. URENCO sent more than 100,000 t U and purchased the feed equivalent." (Management of Depleted Uranium in Europe, presentation by Steve Threlfall, General Manager, Uranium Supply, URENCO, Inc., at NEI International Uranium Fuel Seminar, October 23-26, 2011)

> For details on this issue, view the report "Re-enrichment of West European Depleted Uranium Tails in Russia".

> See also:

In 2019, Urenco resumed shipments of depleted uranium from its Gronau (Germany) enrichment plant for re-enrichment in Russia, see here.


MOX fuel


MOX fuel with reprocessed uranium (REMIX)


Downblending of Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU)


Downblending of contaminated Low-Enriched Uranium (LEU)

IUC/NFS joint venture Urizon to use depleted uranium for downblending of DOE's contaminated low enriched uranium

> see: IUC forms joint venture with NFS to recycle DOE's contaminated low enriched uranium


Depleted uranium for downblending and disposal of uranium-233

Savannah River Site spokesman James Giusti said 800 drums of depleted uranium would be shipped to a Department of Energy site in Oak Ridge, Tenn. (The State Aug. 7, 2009)
According to DOE spokesman John Shewairy, the depleted uranium coming to Oak Ridge will be used for downblending the stockpile of fissionable U-233 currently housed at ORNL's 3019 facility. The special nuclear material is being downblended to eliminate its weapons potential and prepare it for disposal as waste. (Knoxnews Aug. 7, 2009)

"EM is responsible for surplus uranium-233 at various sites; the largest quantities are currently at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and until recently at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). At the beginning of Fiscal Year 2006, EM became responsible for disposition of over 1000 containers (~ 450 kg) of surplus uranium-233 stored in Building 3019 at the ORNL. This material will be downblended with depleted uranium to remove safeguards and criticality concerns and the downblended material will be disposed. The Uranium-233 Stabilization and Building 3019 Complex Shutdown project will modify Building 3019 to downblend the material. An Environmental Assessment for the project was issued in March 2007." (U.S. DOE March 24, 2009)

DOE/EA-1574: Environmental Assessment for U-233 Stabilization, and Building 3019 Complex Shutdown at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Oak Ridge, Tennessee, March 2007

DOE/EA-1488: Environmental Assessment for the U-233 Disposition, Medical Isotope Production, and Building 3019 Complex Shutdown at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, December 2004


Depleted Uranium in Radiation Shielding

Almost 100,000 t of depleted uranium oxide in use as radiation shield for Orano's reprocessed uranium stored at Tricastin (France)

> View here


Bystřice nad Pernštejnem nuclear fuel manufacturing and depleted uranium metal processing plant project (Czech Republic)

> View here


50,000 tonnes of depleted uranium oxide in use at Tricastin to shield radiation from 7,360 tonnes of stored reprocessed uranium oxide (France)

> View here


Depleted uranium from radiation shields melted in French foundry

Three or four radiation protection shields made from depleted uranium have inadvertently been melted in a foundry of Budin company at Aubervillers (Seine-Saint-Denis). Assuming they were made from lead, the shields were melted to recover lead. On May 19, 2003, the recovered metal was further trucked to the Metal-Blanc company at Bourg-Fidèle, where its radioactivity was discovered upon arrival.
The shields had originally been used with cobalt-60 high-activity radiation sources. At least six such radiation shields had been provided to Budin in January 2003 by the metal recycling company Debus at Villejuif (Val-de-Marne).
As a result, the Budin workers had unknowingly been working in a contaminated working place for more than six months.
(Le Figaro Feb. 25, 2004; CRIIRAD Feb. 24, 2004)

> Download CRIIRAD release Feb. 24, 2004 (MS Word, in French)
> Download Summary of CRIIRAD report, Feb. 21, 2004 (MS Word, in French)


Depleted Uranium Sets off Alarm at Scrap Yard

"On October 24, 2000, the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) notified Region I that depleted uranium (DU) blocks, removed from a linear accelerator (Linac), were found at the South Pittsburgh Cancer Center (SPCC). It was determined that SPCC purchased the Linac from Mercy Hospital over two years ago, to be sent to Columbia, South America. The proposed recipient in Columbia declined to take the unit and the unit was then disassembled at the SPCC facility and the pieces, including the DU components, were sent to a scrap yard for disposal. When the pieces containing DU arrived at the scrap yard, the radiation monitor alarmed. The unit was subsequently returned to the SPCC." [...]
> View NRC Preliminary Notification Oct. 25, 2000


Other Nuclear Uses of Depleted Uranium

CERN particle detectors

Depleted uranium no longer used by CERN to be repatriated to Russia

The Russian government has approved an agreement with the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) on the repatriation of depleted uranium belonging to the Russian Federation as part of the L3 detector hadron calorimeter modules. [...]
The L3 detector was part of the Large Electron-Positron collider (LEP) created at CERN, which was dismantled 20 years ago. A plan for the creation of L3 and joint research was signed by CERN and the Soviet Union in 1986, and 212,775 tons [oops: should read 212.775 t] of uranium were supplied from the USSR to Switzerland. [...]
It is planned to carry out transportation by December 2022, and disassembly of the modules by December 2024. (Nuclear Engineering International Jan. 25, 2021)

Depleted uranium dust ignites at CERN

At 9.15 a.m. on 26 January a fire broke out when part of a particle detector was being dismantled. This apparatus comprised 80 plates of depleted uranium which is used for its strong particle absorption power. The work was being done by two people from a specialist company inside a sealed tent with an entrance lock. The tent itself was located in the large North Experimental Hall on the Prévessin site.
As the first plate was being removed some uranium dust fell onto the floor and spontaneously burst into flames.
The fire, which remained confined within the closed area, was rapidly extinguished. (CERN Jan. 26, 1999)


Non-Nuclear Uses of Depleted Uranium

General Non-Nuclear Uses of Depleted Uranium

> see also: Depleted Uranium Use (U.S. DOE Depleted UF6 Management Program)
> see also: Regulatory issues of DU use in civilian products (U.S. DOE Depleted UF6 Management Program)


Depleted uranium may be used with nickel in a catalyst for conversion of CO2 into methane

"Ni-based catalysts prepared through impregnation of depleted uranium oxides (DU) have successfully been employed as highly efficient, selective, and durable systems for CO2 hydrogenation to substituted natural gas (SNG; CH4) under an autothermal regime. [...]
The present work was supported by ORANO Co."
Not Just Another Methanation Catalyst: Depleted Uranium Meets Nickel for a High-Performing Process Under Autothermal Regime, by L Truong-Phuoc, J-M Nhut, S Sall, et al., in: ChemSusChem, Nov. 4, 2022 (aheadofprint)


Piezoelectric ceramics containing depleted uranium manufactured without NRC license

"Piezotech [Piezotech, LLC in Indianapolis, Indiana] possessed and used source material, in the form of depleted uranium, without applying for and receiving a specific license in accordance with 10 CFR 40.31. The depleted uranium was used to manufacture piezoelectric ceramics which contained an "Unimportant Quantity" of depleted uranium as defined in 10 CFR 40.13(c)(2)(ii). Piezotech transferred the piezoelectric ceramics to several customers without first applying for and receiving a license for initial transfer of items containing source material in accordance with 10 CFR 40.52 and did not file initial transfer reports as required by 10 CFR 40.53.
Piezotech suspects that a formulation to manufacture piezoceramics, named K180, was developed in the 1970s or 1980s. K180 uses depleted uranium as one of the doping materials in the manufacture of piezoceramics. The formulation uses an amount of depleted uranium that is less than 1 percent by weight. [...]"
> View: Event Notification Report for July 17, 2020, Event Number: 54767 (NRC)

By letter dated Jan. 11, 2021, NRC informed that it refrains from issuing a Notice of Violation.
> Download: NRC Review of Event Notice Number 54767 and Letter Dated June 29, 2020 , Jan. 11, 2021 (PDF)


Depleted uranium may be used in a catalyst for conversion of ethylene into ethane

[...] By using a catalyst which contains depleted uranium, the researchers have managed to convert ethylene (an alkene used to make plastic) into ethane (an alkane used to produce a number of other compounds including ethanol).
Their work is a breakthrough that could help reduce the heavy burden of large-scale storage of DU, and lead to the transformation of more complicated alkenes.
Prof Layfield said: "The ability to convert alkenes into alkanes is an important chemical reaction that means we may be able to take simple molecules and upgrade them into valuable commodity chemicals, like hydrogenated oils and petrochemicals which can be used as an energy source." [...]
Working in collaboration with researchers at Université de Toulouse and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, the Sussex team discovered that an organometallic molecule based on depleted uranium could catalyse the addition of a molecule of hydrogen to the carbon-carbon double bond in ethylene -- the simplest member of alkene family -- to create ethane. (Phys.org Jan. 10, 2020)
Ethene Activation and Catalytic Hydrogenation by a Low-Valent Uranium Pentalene Complex, by N. Tsoureas, L. Maron, A. F. R. Kilpatrick, et al., in: Journal of the American Chemical Society 2020, Vol. 142, No. 1, p.89-92


Will your next hard disk be made of a uranium compound?

A team of scientists has discovered the first robust example of a new type of magnet -- one that holds promise for enhancing the performance of data storage technologies: a "singlet-based" magnet made of the antiferromagnetic dipnictide USb2.
> View: NYU release Feb. 7, 2019
> View/Download: High temperature singlet-based magnetism from Hund's rule correlations , by L. Miao, R. Basak, S. Ran, et al., in: Nature Communications (2019)10:644

> See also: High-density hard disks with depleted uranium?


Loss or theft of 800 kg depleted uranium oxide during transport (USA)

"On Monday, July 18, Manufacturing Sciences Corp. [MSC] shipped five pallets (18 drums) of product containing depleted uranium oxide [DU] to a customer, Clariant, in Louisville, KY. On Wednesday, July 20, the customer contacted MSC to report only four pallets containing 14 drums were received by Clariant. When the bill of lading was examined by the customer, 5 and 18 had been marked through by hand and changed to 4 and 14. The carrier, was contacted and is conducting a thorough search of its terminal and investigating to locate the missing material. The carrier is routinely used by MSC for transport of product. Total activity of missing material: 271,285 microcuries DU."
[271,285 microcuries DU correspond to 776.946 kg UO2, or 807.636 kg U3O8, assuming an assay of 0.2 wt-% U-235]
> View: U.S. NRC Event Report No. 52111, July 20, 2016


Depleted uranium catalyst could help to produce hydrogen from water for sustainable energy storage

Scientists of the Univerity of Nürnberg, Germany, have developed a uranium-based catalyst that converts water to hydrogen gas. Hydrogen produced in this way could be used as a sustainable energy resource that is suitable to complement the irregularly available renewable energies.
> View University of Nürnberg press release, Jan. 26, 2015 (in German)
> Uranium-mediated electrocatalytic dihydrogen production from water , by Dominik P. Halter, Frank W. Heinemann, Julien Bachmann, Karsten Meyer, in: Nature (2016), published online 25 January 2016


High-density hard disks with depleted uranium?

Dr Steve Liddle, an expert in molecular depleted uranium chemistry at University of Nottingham, has created a new molecule containing two uranium atoms which, if kept at a very low temperature, will maintain its magnetism. This type of single-molecule magnet (SMM) has the potential to increase data storage capacity by many hundreds, even thousands of times - as a result huge volumes of data could be stored in tiny places.
> View University of Nottingham release Apr. 20, 2011
> A delocalized arene-bridged diuranium single-molecule magnet , by D. P. Mills, F. Moro, J. McMaster, et al., in: Nature Chemistry, published online: 17 April 2011


Superconducting materials with depleted uranium?

Engineers at the University of Cambridge used new techniques to manufacture high-temperature superconducting materials, producing samples that can carry record quantities of electrical current for their type and size. The breakthrough has improved the effectiveness of yttrium barium copper oxide (YBCO) and a related family of superconducting materials. It raises the prospect of more powerful and affordable samples that could have huge benefits in a number of fields.
While some materials need to be cooled down to as low as -269 degrees centigrade to superconduct, YBCO does so at the comparatively "high" temperature of -181 degrees C. This means that it can be cooled with liquid nitrogen, rather than liquid helium, which makes it cheaper to operate. In the past, however, producing effective bulk superconducting devices from the material has proved difficult. YBCO is processed most easily in the form of a polycrystalline ceramic, but has to be manufactured as a single grain in order to generate large magnetic fields since boundaries between grains limit the flow of current in the bulk sample. In addition, microscopic defects within the material can impede, or 'pin' the motion of magnetic flux lines and increase the flow of current through it. The distribution of these lines within a bulk superconductor has to be managed to maximise the flow of current and therefore the field.
The Cambridge team have developed a technique to manufacture large single grains of bulk superconductors that involves initially heating the material to a temperature of 1,000 degrees C, causing it to part-melt. In a series of experiments, various elements, such as depleted uranium, were then added to the chemical composition of the superconductor to generate artificial flux pinning sites within the single grain. When the material cooled and reformed, these added materials retained their integrity and formed physical obstacles that form direct the motion of magnetic flux lines, enabling larger currents to flow.

> View Superconductor breakthrough could power new advances, July 12, 2010 (Univ. of Cambridge)


CNSC discloses Canadian inventories and use of depleted uranium

> View here


Depleted uranium key to solution of CO2 problem?

Scientists at the Institute of Inorganic Chemistry at the University Erlangen-Nürnberg have identified reactions of three-valent uranium that allow for the activation and cracking of the CO2 molecule. This metal-catalysed multi-electron reduction might become a key to the use of the greenhouse gas CO2.

Uranchemie zwischen Phobie und Begeisterung, by C. Hauser, K. Meyer, in: Nachrichten aus der Chemie No. 12, Vol. 55 (2007), p. 1195-1199


Depleted uranium found in lawn roller (Germany)

As a pensioner in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, tried to dismantle his lawn roller, he found it to be partly made of depleted uranium metal. He had bought it on a flea market 20 years ago. The origin of the depleted uranium is unclear. It is assumed that the previous owner had manufactured the roller on his own from scrap metal. (WDR Aug. 15, 2007)


Depleted uranium use as catalyst in Exxon refinery in Billings, Montana

NRC Source Materials License No. SUB-1382, Docket No.

On May 21, 2007, the NRC issued an Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact proposing for Termination of the License and Unrestricted Release of the Exxonmobil Refining & Supply C.O., Facility in Billings, Montana.
This license authorized the Licensee to use depleted uranium (DU) catalysts in 84 furnace tubes of a F-551 Reformer Furnace at a hydrogen manufacturing plant. Hydrogen carbon gas was passed through the tubes with the rings acting as a catalyst, to produce hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The Licensee used this process from 1980 to 1986.
In 1986, the tubes were replaced with a non-radioactive nickel-molybdenum catalyst. Residual radioactivity was decontaminated.
The Licensee conducted surveys of the Facility and provided information to the NRC to demonstrate that the furnace component contributed less than 0.01 millisievert/year (mSv/yr) (1 millirem(mrem)/year) and therefore, the Facility meets the criteria in Subpart E of 10 CFR Part 20 for unrestricted release and for license termination.

Federal Register: May 29, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 102) p. 29552-29555 (download full text )


Spent catalyst waste containing DU to be re-imported from Korea to US for disposal

By letter dated Nov. 6, 2003, Sud-Chemie Inc. of Louisville, Kentucky, applies for the re-import of spent catalyst waste containing depleted uranium to the US for disposal at Envirocare's radioactive waste disposal facility in Clive, Utah. The catalyst has been used by Tae Kwang Industrial Co., Ltd. in Ulsan, Korea, for manufacture of acrylonitrile and was originally manufactured by Sud-Chemie and exported to South Korea by Solutia Inc.
"(1) Max quantity: 1,750,000 kg of moist powder that's approximately 25% mixed metal oxides catalyst fines, 25% diatomaceous earth (filter aid) and 50% water. The catalyst is approximately 10% depleted uranium, so the U content of the mixture is approximately 2%. Although percentages are expressed as U, the depleted uranium (DU) exists in the oxide form. Maximum DU content would be approximately 35,000 kg over the 10 year period. The content of U-235 is approximately 0.0050 weight%.
(5) The imported volume would be approximately 4000 55-gallon drums in the first year (that's in a warehouse) and roughly 350 to 700 drums/year in following years. [...]
(7) Because the Korean government has not yet established a disposal site in Korea for the spent catalyst, Tae Kwang has asked Solutia and Sud-Chemie to find an alternative site in order to continue buying the acrylonitrile catalyst from Solutia. [...] "


Encapsulation of depleted uranium oxides in thermoplastic polymers

"Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory have been awarded U.S. patent number 6,030,549 for inventing a process for encapsulating depleted uranium oxides in thermoplastic polymers. The process converts depleted uranium to a form that is both stable and safe for long-term disposal. The encapsulated uranium could also have several useful applications, including the production of radiation shielding and counter weights for airplanes, helicopters and ships." (BNL release July 18, 2000)

> See also:


U.S. NRC Radiological Assessment of Exemptions for Source and Byproduct Materials

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued draft NUREG-1717, ``Systematic Radiological Assessment of Exemptions for Source and Byproduct Materials.''
Comments and suggestions on this NUREG should be submitted by June 30, 2000. [MORE]
The report covers the following items containing (depleted) uranium: dental ceramics, ophthalmic lenses, glazed ceramic tableware, piezoelectric ceramic, glassware, glass enamel and glass enamel frit, photographic film, negatives and prints, counterweights, shielding in shipping containers, fire detection units, among others.


Depleted Uranium Airplane Counterweights

Businessman processes depleted uranium from counterweights in his rental apartment in Idaho and sells it via Internet

James Findlay, 33, of Boise, Idaho, was sentenced yesterday to one yearáof probation for negligent discharge of waste in violation of the Clean Water Act, U.S. Attorney Bart M. Davis announced.
On August 28, 2017, Findlay pleaded guilty to unlawfully discharging waste into the Boise sewage system between April 2012 and October 2014.á According to Findlay's plea agreement, he operated an entity called Sawtooth Fusion, LLC, which was based out of his rental apartment.á Findlay obtained and stored quantities of depleted uranium and uranium powder.á He had obtained some large chunks of depleted uranium from an aircraft salvage company.á In his apartment, Findlay also chemically extracted uranium from various items he had acquired.á He did this by soaking the items in muriatic acid.á At the end of the process, he discharged the materials and acid mixture into the sink in his apartment, which was connected to the Boise Public Works sewage system.á Due to their low pH and corrosive properties, the discharged materials violated Boise's sewage system's EPA-approved requirements and, as a result, the Clean Water Act. (U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Idaho, Nov. 21, 2017)

OI [NRC Office of Investigations] conducted a joint investigation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Transportation, and U.S. Postal Inspection Service involving Sawtooth Fusion, LLC. The investigation substantiated that the owner of Sawtooth Fusion willfully possessed and transferred licensed radioactive material without a valid NRC license. In addition, the investigation determined that the subject was selling small amounts of nuclear material via the Internet throughout the United States and Europe.
During an attempt to interview the subject at his apartment in Boise, ID, OI investigators and an NRC inspector identified numerous amounts of nuclear material. The investigation determined that the subject recklessly handled nuclear material and discharged nuclear materials into the public sewer system and pretreatment facility. Also, the subject solicited the unwitting cooperation of a local fabrication shop to cut depleted uranium into smaller pieces by telling the workers that the material was "tungsten." Consequently, the workers at the fabrication shop wore no protective gear to safeguard themselves from exposure to the depleted uranium or the dust created from cutting the material.
On July 25, 2017, the subject pled guilty to one violation of 33 U.S.C. 1317, related to toxic and pretreatment effluent standards. On November 20, 2017, the subject was convicted and sentenced to 1 year of probation and prohibited from using, owning, or possessing any materials that required a general or specific license from the NRC. Because of the criminal prosecution, the NRC took no administrative enforcement actions. (U.S. NRC: Office of Investigations Annual Report FY 2019 , NUREG-1830 Vol. 16, Feb. 2020, p.15-16)

Depleted uranium counterweights end up on scrap pile at scrap merchant

The Belgian nuclear control agency (AFCN ) has opened an investigation into the disposal of depleted uranium (DU) originating from two airplanes at the Ostende airport. The DU in question came from the tails of the Boeing airplanes. Each plane contained approx. 850 kgs of uranium.
Part of that DU showed up in a container at the airport, but the whereabouts of the rest were unknown. Further follow-up showed that the rest of the uranium had arrived at the scrap pile of a scrap merchant. (7sur7 Dec. 21. 2013)

Depleted uranium "found" near dismantled airplane in Miami, Florida

A hazardous materials team was investigating after depleted uranium was found in a 55-gallon drum in the area of a dismantled airplane at Opa-locka Executive Airport in Miami on Thursday (July 25). Officials at Opa-locka airport said there were depleted uranium parts in a container, located outside a DC-10 aircraft, that was sealed and became unsealed. It is unclear how the container became unsealed. (NBC 6 South Florida July 25, 2013)

No Depleted Uranium released from jet crashed in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Investigators have determined that no radioactivity was released from depleted uranium used as ballast in the tail of a Boeing 747 cargo jet that crashed during takeoff from Halifax International Airport on Oct. 14, 2004. The depleted uranium was only used as ballast in the rudder and elevator portion of the cargo jet's tail - which were not part of the inferno of the main debris site. The tail broke off after hitting an earth mound 300 metres beyond the end of the runway during the crash. Seconds later, the remainder of the plane plunged into a wooded area and exploded in a fireball, killing all seven crew. The depleted uranium was not exposed to the explosion. (CP Oct. 28, 2004)


No Depleted Uranium in Hijacked Jets Crashed in New York and Washington

Other than with its 747 jets, Boeing never used depleted uranium counterweights in its 767 and 757 jets - the types involved in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, according to Boeing speaker Heinrich Grossbongardt. (SPIEGEL ONLINE, Sep 14, 2001)


Depleted Uranium Counterweights Melted into Aluminum Ingots

On February 20, 2001, a truck leaving the recycling firm IMCO Recycling of Ohio, Inc. in Uhrichville, OH, set off the radiation monitor at the facility's exit. The truck was carrying ingots of aluminum from recycled airplane parts. Further investigation by the company determined that depleted uranium counterweights had been among the aluminum airplane parts that were melted and processed into the ingots. Depleted uranium counterweights were also found among aluminum parts awaiting melting.
A total of 118,000 pounds (53.5 metric tonnes) of aluminum ingots were found to be contaminated with depleted uranium. Radiation levels were measured to be about 50 microRoentgen per hour (several times normal background radiation levels).
> View NRC Preliminary Notification Feb. 26, 2001


Import of DU counterweights from United Kingdom to USA for land burial in Texas

(see also: U.S. NRC Petition for Rulemaking concerning control of disused DU counterweights)

Radioactive Material License precludes further disposal of depleted uranium at WCS site in Texas

> See here

Philotechnics to double DU counterweight imports from UK for disposal in Texas

In a license renewal application dated June 17, 2003, Philotechnics Ltd. applied for an increase of the quantity of DU licensed for import under license IW-010 from 50,000 kg to 100,000 kg.

Federal Register: October 7, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 194) p. 57934 (download full text )

A request for a hearing or petition for leave to intervene may be filed within 30 days after October 7, 2003.

Texas Dept. of Health and NRC consent to disposal of imported DU counterweights in facility not licensed for radioactive waste

By letter dated Sept. 26, 2001, the Texas Department of Health approved the disposal of DU counterweights at an unlicensed disposal facility, provided that the counterweights are intact and are labeled as "Depleted Uranium":
"In accordance with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Regulatory Issue Summary Number 2001-13 [10 CFR Part 40 Exemptions for Uranium Contained in Aircraft Counterweights, dated July 20, 2001], it is BRC's position that when counterweights with plating or covering intact are no longer to be used for their intended purposes, the end user may transfer the counterweights to an unlicensed disposal facility that accepts exempt radioactive material as long as:
  1. the counterweights have been manufactured in accordance with a specific license to manufacture and distribute such items;
  2. each counterweight has been impressed, legibly, through any plating or covering, with the words "Depleted Uranium;"
  3. the counterweights have durable and legible markings or labels with the identification of the manufacturer, and a statement, "Unauthorized Alteration Prohibited;" and
  4. the exemption does not authorize any chemical, physical, or metallurgical treatment or processing of the counterweight, other than repair or restoration of any plating or other covering. Cutting, grinding, or smelting of uranium counterweights would therefore violate the conditions of the exemption, and are activities that require an NRC license.
If the conditions detailed above are met, the depleted uranium aircraft counterweights in question may be disposed in a facility in Texas not licensed for the disposal of radioactive material [e.g., WCS]."
Based on this statement, the NRC, by letter dated Nov. 2, 2001, approved the resumption of imports according to import license IW010.

U.S. NRC puts import license for depleted uranium counterweights from UK on hold

In a letter dated Jan. 22, 2001, NRC put the import license IW010 on hold:
"Pursuant to Section 182 of the Atomic Energy Act, we request that Philotechnics provide written confirmation, addressed to the undersigned and within 20 days from the date of this letter, that it will refrain from importing any depleted uranium under license IW010 until arrangements for disposal of the non-recyclable radioactive materials have been made in conformance with applicable law, and the NRC has received verification of such arrangements." [...]

Texas opposes import of DU counterweights from United Kingdom to USA for land burial in Texas

In a letter to NRC dated Nov. 29, 2000, Texas Bureau of Radiation Control (BRC) states that
"it is BRC's position that the counterweights are not exempt from regulation and must be disposed in a facility licensed for the disposal of radioactive material. Waste Control Specialists in Andrews County, Texas, is not licensed for the disposal of radioactive material and may not accept the counterweights for disposal."

Import license application

Federal Register: July 31, 2000 (Vol. 65, No. 147), p. 46751-46752 (Download full notice ):
"Application for a License To Import Radioactive Waste

Pursuant to 10 CFR 110.70(c) ''Public notice of receipt of an application'', please take notice that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has received the following application for an import license. Copies of the application are available electronically through ADAMS and can be accessed through the Public Electronic Reading Room (PERR) link http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/adams.html at the NRC Homepage.
A request for a hearing or petition for leave to intervene may be filed within 30 days after publication of this notice in the Federal Register." (emphasis added)

Name of applicant: Philotechnics, Ltd.
Date of application: July 6, 2000, Date received: July 7, 2000
Application No.: IW010

Description of material: From the license application:
"Because the counterweights will be disposed of in a facility that is not a radioactive waste disposal site and is not subject to the jurisdiction of the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission and because they are not regulated domestically as a low-level radioactive waste, specific approval by the state agency responsible for licensing the Waste Control Specialists' site, the Texas Department of Health, is not required." (emphasis added)

The license IW010 was issued by NRC on Nov. 8, 2000.


U.S. NRC Petition for Rulemaking concerning control of disused DU counterweights

Federal Register: January 21, 2000 (Vol. 65, No. 14) p. 3394-3397 (Download full notice ):
SUMMARY: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has received, and requests public comment on, a petition for rulemaking filed by David A. Barbour, Philotechnics . The petition has been docketed by the Commission and assigned Docket No. PRM-40-28. The petitioner requests that the NRC amend its regulations governing the domestic licensing of source material to provide additional rules for the effective control of depleted uranium aircraft counterweights. The petitioner believes that this regulatory clarification should address a number of issues concerning the exemption, storage, and disposal of these devices.

DATES: Submit comments by April 5, 2000. Comments received after this date will be considered if it is practical to do so, but assurance of consideration cannot be given except as to comments received on or before this date." [...]

(emphasis added)
Petition for Rulemaking PRM-40-28

On July 20, 2001, the U.S. NRC released an Issue Summary to emphasize current restrictions, applicable to counterweights, and other products containing uranium, which are exempt from licensing requirements.
> View Issue Summary 2001-13: 10 CFR Part 40 Exemptions for Uranium Contained in Aircraft Counterweights

On Jan. 6, 2005, the NRC denied the petition - conceding however "that some additional clarification" may be warranted. Therefore, the NRC plans to issue a regulatory information summary clarifying the existing exemption.
Federal Register: January 12, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 8) p. 2053-2057 (download full text )

The regulatory issue summary mentioned was issued on February 28, 2005. It clarifies that the exemption for repair only covers new painting of the counterweights (under conditions), but not electroplating etc., and it clarifies that the exemption for storage does not cover long-term storage for more than 24 months.

NRC Regulatory Issue Summary 2005-03, 10 CFR Part 40 Exemptions for uranium contained in aircraft counterweights - storage and repair, February 28, 2005
> Download: RIS 2005-03 · alternate source (467k PDF)


The Amsterdam 1992 Plane Crash

Epidemiological study finds no elevated uranium concentrations in urine and no malfunction in kidneys of first responders to Amsterdam 1992 Plane Crash

from the Abstract:
"METHODS: Data of a historically defined cohort of 2499 (exposed and non-exposed) firefighters, police officers and hangar workers were collected 8.5 years after the disaster. Urinary uranium concentrations were determined by sector field inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Urine albumin-creatinine ratio and fractional excretion of beta(2)-microglobulin were calculated from a single-spot urine specimen and simultaneous blood sample. Exposed assistance workers were compared with their non-exposed colleagues, and associations between uranium and kidney function parameters were explored.
RESULTS: Median uranium concentrations were around 2 ng/g creatinine. Median values of albumin-creatinine ratio and fractional excretion of beta(2)-microglobulin were well below the level for microalbuminuria and for tubular damage, respectively. No statistically significant differences between exposed and non-exposed workers were found in uranium concentrations and kidney function parameters, although exposed hangar workers had lower uranium concentrations. No statistically significant associations were found between uranium concentrations and kidney function parameters in the total cohort."

Urinary uranium and kidney function parameters in professional assistance workers in the Epidemiological Study Air Disaster in Amsterdam (ESADA), by Bijlsma JA, Slottje P, Huizink AC, et al., in: Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation: ahead of print publication Oct 26, 2007

Study finds no excess chromosome aberrations in Bijlmermeer residents and firemen

A study performed by the Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC) on 10 firemen and 10 other care providers and residents who were at the scene of the 1992 plane crash in Bijlmermeer found no excess chromosome aberrations in blood attributable to exposure from radiation or hazardous substances.

> View Dutch Health Ministry news release, July 8, 2004 (in Dutch)
> View Dutch Health Minister's statement, July 8, 2004 (in Dutch)
> Download study report: Rapportage Individuele FISH-test Vliegramp Bijlmermeer, Juli 2004 (57k PDF - in Dutch)

Study finds no excess uranium in care providers

On Feb 19, 2003, a study into the health of care providers present on the scene of the 1992 crash was released, finding:
"Furthermore, no differences were detected in uranium concentrations in the urine of those involved and those not involved. Similarly no differences were detected in kidney functioning. "
> See Medisch Onderzoek Vliegramp Bijlmermeer (Medical Investigation into the Bijlmermeer Aviation Disaster)

Background information

Uranium Pollution from the Amsterdam 1992 Plane Crash (by Henk v.d.Keur, May 1999)

Uranium Pollution from the Amsterdam 1992 Plane Crash , by Henk v.d. Keur: in: WISE News Communique No.463/464, Dec. 13, 1996, p.12-15


> see also:
Radiation Exposure from Depleted Uranium Counterweights

U.S. FAA Advisory Circular No. 20-123: Avoiding Or Minimizing Encounters With Aircraft Equipped With Depleted Uranium Balance Weights During Accident Investigations, Dec. 20, 1984

U.S. NRC Health Physics Position HPPOS-206: Boeing Company Request Concerning Depleted Uranium Counterweights, 1983


Depleted Uranium in Household Items

Three glass manufacturers in the Czech Republic use depleted uranium as colouring agent

According to the website of UJP PRAHA a.s. , the depleted uranium oxide U3O8 produced by the company is used by three glass manufacturers in the country as a colouring agent.


Uranium glass manufacturing at Fenton Art Glass Co. in West Virginia

NRC License SUB-491, Docket No.

NRC terminates license of uranium glass manufacturer in West Virginia: Fenton Art Glass Co. discontinued the use of depleted uranium in November 2011. On Oct. 26, 2015, the company requested the termination of its NRC License No. SUB-491. After lengthy proceedings involving radiation surveys, NRC finally terminated the license on July 17, 2017.

NRC issues Notice of Violation to uranium glass manufacturer in West Virginia: On Sep. 16, 2010, the NRC issued a Notice of Violation to glass manufacturer Fenton Art Glass Company in Williamstown, West Virginia. The company holds an NRC license allowing "Possession incident to the use as a coloring agent in the manufacture of decorative glassware (not to exceed 1% of uranium by weight in glass products)".
The violations involved: possession of depleted uranium oxide powder in excess of the authorized license limit; the failure to perform the required periodic review of the radiation protection program; and, the failure to conduct required training.

> Download NRC Inspection Report No. 04003149/2010001, Fenton Art Glass Company, Williamstown, West Virginia site and Notice of Violation , Sep. 16, 2010 (ADAMS Acc. No. ML102590398)


Depleted uranium still in use for pottery glazes in the US?

In a letter dated Nov. 14, 2003, Phil Morgan , a potter from Seagrove, North Carolina, requested assistance from his Congressman in finding a supplier of a material he called "ceramic grade spent uranium oxide". He has been using such material to obtain a light yellow colored glaze, but he is no longer able now to obtain such material "due to the nature of this material's regulations". His request eventually was forwarded to the NRC.
> View/Download request forwarded to the NRC
> View/Download NRC's reply (June 8, 2004)


Depleted Uranium found as Coloring Matter in Enamel (France)

Depleted uranium was found in yellow enamel powder sold by a French company, and in pieces of enamel jewelry.
By gamma spectrometic monitoring done at the independent laboratory of CRII-RAD , a uranium concentration of 10% was found in the powder "jaune no.17"; the uranium was depleted to 0.23% uranium-235. The dose rate at the surface of the powder was 8 ÁSv/h. Jewelry pieces identified as made with this enamel powder were enamel plates, pendants, and rings. The dose rate at the surface of the jewelry pieces was 6.7 ÁSv/h.

The powder is sold at a price of 480 FF (US$ 74) per kg incl. tax by Cristallerie de Saint-Paul at Condat-sur-Vienne (Haute-Vienne), the only producer of enamel powder for use on copper, silver, and gold in France. Until very recently, the powder was sold without any mention of its hazards.

For the handicraft-artists using the powder for manufacturing enamel jewelry, the powder presents an inhalation hazard. The annual dose limit for the public of 1 mSv corresponds to the inhalation of 14 - 45 milli-grams of the powder (depending on age).
For the users of the jewelry, there exists the external radiation hazard to the skin: for continuous exposure, the skin dose would be 0.6 mSv per year, assuming that 1% of the skin would be irradiated. There moreover exists the risk of dissolution of toxic uranium from the enamel.

The depleted uranium used in the powder was sold by Cogéma's Pierrelatte facility, where depleted UF6 is being converted to the form of U3O8 for long-term storage in the Bessines storage facility.

Uranium was widely used as a coloring matter for porcelain and glass in the 19th century. The total production of uranium colors was 260 tonnes (with an uranium contents of 70%), 150 tonnes of which were used for uranium glass. While the uranium in those times had to be mined at high cost, depleted uranium now is available at virtually no cost, since it is a waste from the uranium enrichment process.
This use of depleted uranium in enamel resumes, after nearly 100 years, the practice of dispersing the radiating and toxic uranium in everyday's items, a practice that was believed to be a matter of history.

> View CRII-RAD release of Oct. 27, 1999 (in French)
> See also Radiation Exposure from Household Items Containing Uranium

On February 14, 2000, Cogema confirmed that it has made a decision to stop the sale of depleted uranium to producers of enamel and glass. Instead, all of Cogema's depleted uranium will be stored (see Bessines storage project) or re-enriched (see details).
> View CRII-RAD release of Feb. 14, 2000 (in French)

In August 2011, the matter of the radiation dose resulting from former use of powder "jaune no.17" in enamel resurfaced in France, when a collector of enamel jewelry found Geiger counter readings up to 20 ÁSv/h at the surface of his enamel items.
An investigation by radiation protection authority IRSN confirmed gamma and beta rates up to 20 times background at the surface of the items, but concluded that the resulting effective doses were negligible.
> View IRSN release Sep. 5, 2011 (in French)
> Download IRSN's technical note Sep. 2, 2011 (PDF - in French)

The independent radiation monitoring laboratory CRIIRAD rather claims that the use of depleted uranium in these enamel items well presents a health hazard. (Le Populaire du Centre, Oct. 19, 2011)


Hydrogen storage with depleted uranium

HyDUS project for hydrogen storage with depleted uranium

Application filed for export of depleted uranium from USA to the UK for HyDUS (storage of hydrogen) project: On Mar. 27, 2024, Manufacturing Sciences Corp. of Oak Ridge, TN, applied for an NRC export license for the export of 100 kg depleted uranium metal bars to HH Wills Physics Laborator in Bristol, UK, "for its chemical properties, specifically for a project called HyDUS. HyDUS is the world's first demonstration of reversible bulk hydrogen storage for energy grid applications using depleted uranium as the storage material." (US NRC Export License Application XSOU8862 , Mar. 27, 2024)
An export license for 500 kg of depleted uranium metal bars was issued on May 29, 2024. (US NRC Export License XSOU8862 )

UK government funds development of storage technology for hydrogen using depleted uranium: EDF UK R&D , in partnership with the University of Bristol, Urenco and the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) , will receive £7.73 million to develop a hydrogen storage demonstrator utilising depleted uranium at UKAEA's Culham Science Centre in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. Electricity will be converted to hydrogen via electrolysis and stored for future use - either directly as hydrogen, or converted back to electricity via a fuel cell when required.
The HyDUS (Hydrogen Depleted Uranium Storage) project has adapted and applied Metal Hydride storage from established fusion technology to safely store large quantities of Hydrogen for long periods. (UKAEA Nov. 28, 2022)


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