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Current Issues: Waste Management of Depleted Uranium

(last updated 8 Apr 2021)

Contents:

 


General


Depleted Uranium: Waste or Resource?

Regulators' views are not exactly conclusive regarding this question:

 


U.S. DOE Depleted UF6 Management Program   flag

> See extra page

 


Depleted uranium in Canada   flag

CNSC discloses Canadian inventories and use of depleted uranium

Historical Canadian DU Inventory: About 1,500 metric tons of DU in different forms, such as oxides (DUO2 and DU3O8) and metal blended with other waste products, are stored at Cameco's Port Hope Conversion Facility.

Currently, Cameco imports DU powder (DU3O8) from various countries to produce depleted nuclear fuel for pressurized heavy water reactors at its Port Hope facilities. Cameco's Port Hope conversion facility processes DU powder, which is then sent to its fuel fabrication plant, also in Port Hope, where the powder is manufactured into bundles. Depleted nuclear fuel is used to help control reactivity when the reactor is started. The waste produced from this process is currently stored on site.

DU metal is not currently produced in Canada. Existing DU metal inventories were mostly produced before the 1990's by Cameco Corporation. DU metal is also found in manufactured equipment and waste. About 400 metric tons of DU metal are currently stored in Canada.

The total amount of DU - in its powder or metal form - imported into Canada between January 1, 2004, and December 31, 2008, was 161,318 kg. Almost all of that (97%) was received by Cameco Corporation as DU powder. The remaining 3% was DU metal. Most of it came from the international customers of MDS Nordion, who returned shielding medical equipment containing DU metal.

> View Depleted Uranium: The Canadian Regulator's Perspective, July 10, 2009 (CNSC)

 


Depleted uranium in the United Kingdom   flag

UK Nuclear Decommmissioning Authority's management strategy for "materials" / wastes containing uranium (in particular depleted uranium): wait and see

> View here

 


Depleted Uranium Trade

> See extra page


Processing of Depleted Uranium for Storage and Disposal


Tails de-conversion (defluorination)


Tails de-conversion: USA   flag


USA general

Elevated radiation readings found on uranium hexafluoride cylinders at Paducah (Kentucky)

> View here

U.S. NRC seeks public comment on proposed rule requiring detailed safety analyses for uranium conversion and deconversion facilities

> View here

U.S. NRC to regulate only certain new uranium conversion and depleted uranium deconversion facilities

> View here

 

International Isotopes Inc. Fluorine Extraction Process (FEP) production plant project, Lea County, New Mexico, USA

NRC License No. SUB-1011
NRC Docket No. 04009086

> Aerial View: Google Maps · MSRMaps

International Isotopes Inc.
IIFP Fluorine Extraction and Depleted Uranium Deconversion Plant Licensing (NRC)

 

Shortage of funding delays construction of International Isotopes Inc.'s depleted uranium deconversion plant in New Mexico

International Isotopes Inc.'s construction of a first-of-its-kind depleted uranium deconversion plant just west of Hobbs will be delayed because of a shortage of funding for the $125 million project, the company acknowledged Friday (Aug. 16).
A major reason the company chose the location near Hobbs was because of its proximity to Louisiana Energy Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of Urenco that processes depleted uranium fuel at its Urenco USA facility in nearby Eunice. International Isotopes has an agreement with LES to acquire 50 percent of the raw materials it is seeking for its patented depleted uranium deconversion process, President and CEO Steve T. Laflin said, but that's not enough to get favorable financing terms. (Albuquerque Journal Aug. 16, 2013)

NRC issues licence for International Isotopes Inc.'s depleted uranium deconversion plant in New Mexico

Under the license IIFP can process about 8 million pounds per year of depleted uranium hexafluoride, or DUF6 [3,629 tonnes UF6, containing 2,454 t U].
> Download NRC release Oct. 2, 2012 (PDF)
> Download License SUB-1011 (PDF)

NRC issues Final Environmental Impact Statement for International Isotopes Inc.'s depleted uranium deconversion plant in New Mexico

> Download NRC release Aug. 22, 2012 (PDF)
> Federal Register Volume 77, Number 170 (Friday, August 31, 2012) p. 53236-53237 (download full text )
> Download Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Fluorine Extraction Process and Depleted Uranium Deconversion Plant in Lea County, New Mexico - Final Report (NUREG-2113) , Aug. 2012

NRC issues Safety Evaluation Report for International Isotopes Inc.'s depleted uranium deconversion plant in New Mexico

> Federal Register Volume 77, Number 105 (Thursday, May 31, 2012) p. 32146 (download full text )
> Download Safety Evaluation Report for the International Isotopes Fluorine Products, Inc. Fluorine Extraction Process and Depleted Uranium Deconversion Plant in Lea County, New Mexico, Docket No. 40-9086, International Isotopes Fluorine Products, Inc., NUREG-2116 , U.S. NRC, Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards, May 2012

International Isotopes Inc.'s depleted uranium deconversion plant in New Mexico obtains state air permit, allowing start of construction

On April 3, 2012, International Isotopes Inc. announced it has received its air permit from the New Mexico Environment Department for the planned depleted uranium de-conversion and fluorine extraction processing facility. While other state permits are necessary prior to the commencement of operations, the State's issuance of this permit completes permitting actions required in New Mexico to allow the start of construction of the planned facility. According to Steve T. Laflin, President and CEO of INIS, the air permit clears the way, in terms of permitting, for certain pre-NRC license construction to begin.

NRC invites public comment on Draft EIS for International Isotopes Depleted Uranium Deconversion Plant in Lea County, New Mexico

Submit comments by February 27, 2012.
> Download NRC release Jan. 9, 2012 (PDF)
> Federal Register Volume 77, Number 9 (Friday, January 13, 2012) p. 2096-2098 (download full text )
> Download Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Fluorine Extraction Process and Depleted Uranium Deconversion Plant in Lea County, New Mexico, Draft Report for Comment, NUREG-2113, Dec. 2011 · alternate source (15.2MB PDF)
> View Docket ID NRC-2010-0143

NRC invites public comment on scope of Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed International Isotopes depleted uranium deconversion plant in Lea County, New Mexico

NRC invites public comments on the appropriate scope of issues to be considered in the EIS. Written comments submitted by mail should be postmarked by no later than August 30, 2010 to ensure consideration.

Federal Register: July 15, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 135) p. 41242-41244 (download full text )
> View Docket ID NRC-2010-0143

International Isotopes Inc. concludes agreement with Urenco USA on deconversion services for depleted uranium

On April 19, 2010, International Isotopes Inc. (INIS) announced it has entered into an agreement with Louisiana Energy Services (LES), a wholly owned subsidiary of Urenco, to provide depleted uranium de-conversion services for LES's Urenco USA facility (formerly the National Enrichment Facility), located in Eunice, NM. Urenco USA is expected to begin commercial enrichment operations this Spring.
The term of this agreement extends for the first five years of INIS's operation of its planned uranium deconversion facility. The agreement is contingent upon INIS meeting certain performance milestones in the construction and planned start-up of the facility by the end of 2013. Pursuant to the agreement, LES will provide certain minimum volumes of depleted material to INIS for de-conversion with the option to process further material.

NRC issues Opportunity To Request a Hearing regarding proposed uranium deconversion facility in Lea County, New Mexico

Notice of Opportunity To Request a Hearing for the License Application From International Isotopes Fluorine Products, Inc., for a Fluoride Extraction and Uranium Deconversion Facility in Lea County NM.
Requests for a hearing or leave to intervene must be filed by June 4, 2010.
Federal Register: April 5, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 64) p. 17170-17174 (download full text )
[The NRC received no hearing requests.]

International Isotopes Inc. submits license application for Lea County depleted uranium deconversion facility (New Mexico)

On December 31, 2009, International Isotopes Inc. announced it has submitted its license application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for its depleted uranium de-conversion and fluorine extraction processing facility.
> Download Fluorine Extraction Process & Depleted Uranium De-conversion (FEP/DUP) Plant, License Application, Revision A, December 23, 2009 (4.4MB PDF - ADAMS Acc. No. ML100630503)

Depleted uranium oxide recovered from planned Lea County deconversion plant to be disposed of at low level radwaste dump site

According to a presentation by International Isotopes Inc., the "Uranium waste" [sic!] to be generated at its planned Lea County deconversion plant is to be shipped to a licensed near-surface disposal site, either to Energy Solutions Inc.'s ' Clive, Utah site, or, "(after NRC Rulemaking)" to Waste Control Specialists LLC's Texas site.
(Presentation on Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride Processing & Fluorine Extraction Process , International Isotopes Inc., ADAMS Acc. No. ML093570290)

Agreement limits onsite storage of depleted uranium at Lea County deconversion plant project

New Mexico officials and International Isotopes Inc. have reached an agreement that will limit the amount of waste that can be stored at the company's planned uranium deconversion plant in southeastern New Mexico. Uranium waste would be disposed of at a licensed facility outside New Mexico. The agreement limits onsite storage of uranium at the plant to 2.2 million kilograms. (AP Oct. 26, 2009)

International Isotopes Inc. announces selection of site in Lea County, New Mexico, for the planned depleted uranium deconversion facility

On March 31, 2009, International Isotopes Inc. announced its selection of a site in Lea County, New Mexico, for the construction of International Isotopes' depleted uranium de-conversion and fluorine extraction processing facility. The site location is approximately 15 miles west of Hobbs, NM.

International Isotopes Inc. announces plans to build commercial depleted uranium deconversion facility

On June 4, 2008, International Isotopes Inc. (INIS) announced plans to construct a commercial facility to process depleted uranium hexafluoride (UF6) tails from commercial uranium enrichment operations. The facility will use INIS's patented Fluorine Extraction Process (FEP) technology to convert the tails into readily disposable forms and in the process produce high-value specialty fluoride gases for use in the fabrication of microelectronics and in other applications.
On March 27, 2008, INIS notified NRC of its intent to submit an application for a FEP pilot plant (less then 10,000 kg of DUF4) by Nov. 1, 2008, and an application for a hybrid FEP and UF6-UF4 deconversion plant (28 million pounds of DUF6 annually) by May 1, 2009.

 

International Isotopes Inc. Fluorine Extraction Process (FEP) project, Idaho Falls, Idaho, USA

NRC License No. SUB-1587
NRC Docket No. 04009058

International Isotopes Inc.

NRC terminates license for depleted uranium defluorination plant in Idaho Falls

On June 9, 2016, International Isotopes Inc. requested NRC to terminate Materials License No. SUB-1587. NRC approved the request on Feb. 17, 2017.
> Download NRC letter to International Isotopes Inc. , Feb. 17, 2017 (PDF)

Transuranic impurities in depleted UF4 received in Idaho Falls defluorination plant

On Dec. 6, 2010, International Isotopes Inc. received a batch of depleted uranium tetrafluoride (UF4) at its Idaho Falls facility. According to the freight documentation, the material contained impurities of plutonium-239 and possibly other transuranic elements. Another batch already received in 2008 was apparently from the same lot. A sample has been taken for mass-spectrometric analysis. Both batches will be returned to the sender. (III email to NRC Dec. 10, 2010)

International Isotopes Inc. announces the successful start of high purity germanium tetrafluoride production from depleted UF4

On Nov. 20, 2006, International Isotopes Inc. announced the successful start of germanium tetrafluoride production using the Fluorine Extraction Process (FEP). The Company had previously announced completion of the plant construction and initial operational testing in January 2006. Since that time the Company had been testing production systems, developing laboratory analysis protocol, and implementing necessary system design alterations. (International Isotopes Inc. Nov. 20, 2006)

On Jan. 25, 2006, International Isotopes Inc. announced the successful start of high purity germanium tetrafluoride gas production operations at their newly completed production facility in Idaho Falls, Idaho using the Fluorine Extraction Process (FEP).
FEP is a patented process that allows fluorine to be extracted from depleted uranium tetrafluoride (UF4) and react with metal oxides to form ultra high purity fluoride gases such as GeF4, BF3, SiF4, to name a few. These gases are ideally suited to specialty applications in the semiconductor industry where ultra high purity gases are required. (International Isotopes Inc. Jan. 25, 2006)

U.S. NRC issues operating license for International Isotopes Inc. Fluorine Extraction Process (FEP) production plant project, Idaho, USA

On Oct. 31, 2005, International Isotopes Inc. announced they have received their operating license from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for the company's Fluorine Extraction Process (FEP).
The company acquired the exclusive patent technology for production of ultra pure inorganic fluoride gases in January 2004. Since then, the company has designed and constructed a state-of-the-art high-purity gas production facility. The plant, located in the St. Leon Business Park north of Idaho Falls, Idaho, is now nearly complete.
The NRC operating license is required before the Company may store and process sufficient quantities of depleted uranium tetrafluoride (UF4) to support commercial scale fluoride gas production and is the last license or permit required before the company can begin commercial fluoride gas production. (Intl. Isotopes Oct. 31, 2005)

International Isotopes Inc. applies for operating license for Fluorine Extraction Process (FEP) production plant project, Idaho, USA

On April 21, 2005, International Isotopes Inc. submitted an application to possess and utilize depleted uranium (DU), solid form as uranium tetrafluoride (UF4) or uranium oxide (UO2 or U3O8). The company requests to receive and to store up to 5000 kilograms of DU per year with an additional 1000 kilograms of DU in process equipment. The proposed licensed activity will be to produce high purity fluorine gas compounds, such as germanium tetrafluoride (GeF4) or boron trifluoride (BF3). This robust chemical reaction converts UF4 into U3O8/UO2 during the fluorine gas production process.

 


U.S. DOE Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride Conversion Facilities project

> See extra page

 


Tails de-conversion: United Kingdom   flag


Capenhurst tails de-conversion plant project, United Kingdom

> See also: Depleted uranium storage project at Urenco Capenhurst site (UK)

 

Tails de-conversion plant at Urenco Capenhurst site completed four years late at costs of almost GBP 1 billion - 2.5 times initial estimate: When a nuclear facility opens at Capenhurst next month it will be four years late and have cost more than double the original estimate at almost GBP 1 billion. Urenco has just announced the completion of the Tails Management Facility (TMF) at its uranium enrichment plant which makes fuel for nuclear power stations. It should have been ready back in 2015 for an estimated GBP 400 million but the project has experienced construction delays and cost pressures. (CheshireLive May 25, 2019)
The Tails Management Facility (TMF) was officially opened on June 7, 2019. (Urenco June 7, 2019)

Commissioning of tails de-conversion plant at Urenco Capenhurst site "continuing apace": On May 9, 2019, Urenco announced that the commissioning of the new Tails Management Facility (TMF) at Urenco's UK site is "continuing apace". Operations at the TMF are planned to start in 2019.

Humming noise from Urenco's new Tails Management Facility torments Capenhurst residents for months: The source of a humming noise which has tormented Capenhurst residents for months has finally been revealed. Residents of the Cheshire town, located just outside of Ellesmere Port, have lodged complaints with uranium storage facility URENCO after a loud humming noise was heard from the nuclear plant.
In an update issued on Thursday, January 3, URENCO cited three ventilation stacks as the source of the nuisance noise. An earlier update posted in August 2018 explained that the ventilation stacks are 'Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning discharge stacks', which are 'essential' in the operation of the facility. The three stacks are located in the Tails Management Facility (TMF) on the Capenhurst site. Commissioned by Jacobs on behalf of URENCO ChemPlants Limited (UCP), the facility stores depleted uranium hexafluoride (UF6) - a by-product of the uranium enrichment process which is also known as tails.
Soundproofing equipment is now being created to reduce the noise pollution, which will be available at the end of February. (CheshireLive Jan. 8, 2019)

Urenco commences commissioning of Capenhurst tails de-conversion plant project: "The TMF [UK Tails Management Facility] project is nearing completion, commissioning has commenced, with commercial operation anticipated to start in 2019." (Urenco Aug. 7, 2018)

Wall collapsed on construction site of Urenco's Capenhurst tails de-conversion plant project:

"During this period, ONR's [Office for Nuclear Regulation] regulatory confidence in the TMF [Tails Management Facility] programme and permissioning Hold Point Control Plan improved significantly, however, there remains an open issue with respect to the an incident where a wall collapsed and site is assessing the extent of the condition as it may affect other similarly constructed walls within the facility. Although not a threat to nuclear safety ONR will continue to monitor site's response and any necessary remedial measures. ONR holds regular meetings to discuss all recommendations and issues that ONR requires to be addressed prior to ONR giving permission to active commissioning of TMF, which is due in the second half of 2018." (Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR): Site Report for Urenco UK Limited (UUK) Capenhurst, Report for period July - November 2017)

Urenco's Capenhurst tails de-conversion plant project delayed further: "[...] the TMF [Tails Management Facility] has experienced further construction delays and we now anticipate commissioning in late 2018. A comprehensive review of the project undertaken in H1 2017 indicates higher final construction costs." (Urenco Aug. 31, 2017)

Urenco's Capenhurst tails de-conversion plant project "subject to continued delay and uncertainty", regulator says:

"The TMF [Tails Management Facility] programme and permissioning Hold Point Control Plan are subject to continued delay and uncertainly [presumably uncertainty?]. To enable and monitor progress, ONR [Office for Nuclear Regulation] holds regular meetings with UCP [URENCO ChemPlants Limited] to discuss the recommendations that ONR requires to be addressed prior to ONR permissioning active commissioning of the TMF." (Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR): Site Report for Urenco UK Limited (UUK) Capenhurst, Report for period Jan - Jun 2017)

ONR reluctantly issues permission for installation of equipment in the Vaporisation Facility of the Tails Management Facility at Urenco's Capenhurst site:

"Conclusions
ONR concludes that the licensee has demonstrated that the risks associated with operation of the TMF are at least tolerable. However, for a new plant like TMF ONR would expect risks to be near the levels known in SAPs as Basic Safety Objectives.
Initially, ONR judged that risks to workers had not been reduced so far as is reasonably practicable. After much further discussion, and the submission of a paper on the need for workers to have access to the area around kilns while they are operating, ONR has accepted the arguments on this question, subject to the recommendations listed in this report.
ONR has raised a number of other regulatory issues during its assessment of the safety of TMF. These will next be set out in letters from ONR to UCP and the licensee. ONR has already stated that these will require to be addressed to ONR's satisfaction before any request for permission to commence active commissioning is made." (emphasis added)
> Download: Permission for installation of equipment in the Vaporisation Facility of the Tails Management Facility , June 2016 (234k PDF)

Urenco's Capenhurst tails de-conversion plant project delayed further: The Tails Management Facility (TMF) has incurred cost overruns and delays and the resolution of issues relating to its construction will be a priority in the year ahead. The TMF is now planned for commissioning in 2017. (Urenco Mar. 5, 2015)

'Minor' leakage from legacy depleted UF6 cylinder shows importance of deconversion plant project at Capenhurst: "The licensee promptly notified ONR of a minor leakage from a legacy uranium hexafluoride ('hex Tails') cylinder in November, the licensee's response to which was considered to be adequate. This minor event served to reinforce the importance of the proposed timely construction of the Legacy Cylinder Facility at Capenhurst, which will transfer uranium hexafluoride 'Hex Tails' from ageing cylinders into modern transport cylinders, which will be compatible with the Tails Management Facility, for processing from uranium hexafluoride, UF6, to a form of uranium oxide, U3O8, for safer long term storage. There is a commitment to ONR to start this 'deconversion' of the legacy 'Hex Tails' by 2020."
(Quarterly Site Report for Urenco UK Limited Capenhurst, Report for period 1 October - 31 December 2014, Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR))

Deconversion of legacy tails at Capenhurst to take longer: Essentially, the deconversion of the legacy "Hex Tails" (stored on the Sellafield Limited Capenhurst licensed site) is still planned to commence by 2020, but under the proposed emerging contractual arrangements between Urenco and NDA, the legacy "Hex Tails" deconversion is likely to be planned over a twenty five year, rather than an eleven year, programme. (Quarterly site report for the Urenco UK Limited Capenhurst site, 1st October to 31st December 2011, Office for Nuclear Regulation, Jan. 23, 2012)

Urenco's Capenhurst tails de-conversion plant project delayed: On July 25, 2011, Urenco announced the commencement of construction in early 2012. It is anticipated that the facility will become fully operational towards the end of 2015. On completion, the Tails Management Facility will process Urenco's European inventory of depleted uranium tails.
On March 6, 2014, Urenco confirmed that the project is expected to begin operations in late 2015.

Project management contractor selected for Urenco Capenhurst tails de-conversion plant project: On July 19, 2011, Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. announced that it has been awarded a contract by URENCO ChemPlants Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of URENCO Ltd, for project management, design engineering, procurement, construction management and inactive commissioning associated with a new tails management facility (TMF) at URENCO's Capenhurst site. The plant is expected to deconvert the material into a passive form which will be stored on the Capenhurst site. Completion of construction and pre-commissioning is scheduled for early 2015, prior to URENCO's commissioning and operation of the facility.

Preliminary planning consent granted for Urenco Capenhurst tails de-conversion plant project: Preliminary planning consent has been granted to URENCO ChemPlants Ltd – a wholly owned subsidiary of international energy and technology group URENCO – to build a new Tails Management Facility (TMF) at its site at Capenhurst, near Chester, UK, for the treatment and management of depleted uranium hexafluoride. The Facility will be capable of washing and re-certifying empty tails cylinders, to recover uranic and fluoride residues from effluent streams, and to store the resulting uranium oxide plus the maintenance of the whole facility. (NEI Aug. 24, 2009)

Urenco approves construction of tails de-conversion plant and tails oxide store at Capenhurst enrichment plant: On 2 July 2009, the Urenco Limited Board approved capital expenditure of EUR 360 million for the creation of a Tails Management Facility (TMF) at URENCO's Capenhurst site, north-west England, UK. Construction of the Facility will include a 7,000 tU per annum capacity (2 kiln) tails hex deconversion plant, a hex cylinder washing plant, a uranium oxide store and associated support facilities. The construction programme will commence in the coming months, with completion target and online date scheduled for 2014. (Urenco 13 July 2009)

Urenco has filed a license application for the construction of a tails deconversion plant (UF6 to U3O8) at its Capenhurst site. (Urenco Annual Report 2005)
A Memorandum of Agreement has been signed with Cogéma to supply Urenco with a tails deconversion plant which is a copy of their plant Usine W that has operated since the 1980's. It is intended to sign the full contract by the end of the year 2005 with construction commencing in 2007. (Minutes of the Urenco (Capenhurst) Ltd Local Liaison Committee, 30 Nov. 2005)
Urenco plans to construct a Tails Hex Deconversion Facility, Hex Cylinder Wash Plant and Tails Oxide Store. Construction work is scheduled to start in 2007 with active operations commencing in 2011. (Minutes of the Urenco (Capenhurst) Ltd Local Liaison Committee, 30 June 2005)

 


Tails de-conversion: France   flag


Usine W, Pierrelatte, Drôme, France

INB No. 155

Information about Usine W (Nuclear Safety Authority - ASN, in French)
> See also: Plan de Prévention des Risques Technologiques (PPRT) AREVA NC, usine W, et COMURHEX
> See also: DU exports of Urenco's Gronau enrichment facility to France

 

ASN issues regulations for the operation of Orano's Usine W depleted uranium deconversion plant

On July 10, 2018, the Nuclear Safety Authority ASN published a decision detailing regulations for the operation of Orano's Usine W depleted uranium deconversion plant.
> Download: Décision nºCODEP-LYO-2018-018662 du Président de l'ASN du 4 mai 2018 (in French)

 

Violations regarding waste management revealed at Orano's Usine W depleted uranium deconversion plant and TU5 uranyl nitrate conversion plant

ASN identifies numerous violations regarding waste management at Orano's Usine W depleted uranium deconversion plant: On 6 March 2018, the Nuclear Safety Authority ASN carried out an unannounced inspection on the subject of waste management at Orano's Usine W and TU5 uranyl nitrate conversion facilities, which were not operating at the time.
This inspection revealed numerous violations in the regulation and the implementation of the waste management of the facility. ASN rated the event Level 1 of the INES scale. (ASN Mar. 16, 2018)

Court imposes 11,000 Euro penalty on Orano for violations regarding waste management at its Usine W depleted uranium deconversion plant: On February 27, 2019, the Sortir du Nucléaire Network directly cited Orano Cycle before the Valence Police Court. Frapna Drôme Nature Environnement then brought civil action. Following a hearing that took place on October 1, 2019, during which Orano's lawyer tried unsuccessfully to question the legitimacy of the associations' actions, the case was put under advisement.
This February 4, 2020, Orano Cycle was found guilty of 2 offenses and ordered to pay Euro 11,000. Our associations welcome this condemnation and hope that it will send a strong signal to the operator, whose negligence endangers the workers. (Sortir du Nucléaire Feb. 4, 2020)

 

Nuclear Safety Authority demands improvement of flood protection at Areva's Usine W depleted uranium deconversion plant

On Sep. 28, 2017, the Nuclear Safety Authority ASN demanded Areva to perform works to limit the impacts of a potential flooding of the site in view of the stability problems identified with a flood protection dike (see here).

Storage yard for 62,000 tonnes of uranium licensed at Areva Tricastin site

> View here

Cutter strokes found on railcar carrying depleted U3O8 from Tricastin (France) to the Netherlands

In the night from Tuesday (Jan. 20) to Wednesday (Jan. 21), the outer covering of a wagon carrying radioactive material, specifically depleted uranium was vandalized while parked in the shunting yard of Drancy-Le Bourget [near Paris]. The facts were discovered yesterday (Jan. 21) morning. Cutter shots were worn on the cover of this wagon destined to the Netherlands.
A malicious act or attempted theft of cargo are the two hypotheses to explain the cutter strokes. According to the prefecture of Seine-Saint-Denis, the "incident" had no effect on people and the environment and did not trip the internal emergency plan on hazardous materials. The deputy mayor of Drancy, Jean-Christophe Lagarde (UDI) judged the facts "disturbing". "I discovered that one can approach these cars undetected. This time, these people had only a cutter." (Le Parisien Jan. 22, 2015)
[Apparently, the railcar was transporting depleted uranium oxide U3O8 from Usine W for storage at the COVRA facility in Vlissingen, The Netherlands.]

Insuffient pressure used in tests of 160 UF6 cylinders at Areva's Tricastin site (France)

> View here

More than 12,000 t of depleted uranium hexafluoride from Urenco's Gronau (Germany) enrichment plant deconverted at Areva's Usine W plant

According to the answer of the Nordrhein-Westfalen State Ministry of Economics to a parliamentary question, Usine W has so far deconverted 12,686 t depleted UF6 from Urenco's Gronau (Germany) enrichment plant.
> Landtag Nordrhein-Westfalen, Drucksache 16/5732, 06.05.2014: Antwort der Landesregierung auf die Kleine Anfrage 2178 vom 9. April 2014 des Abgeordneten Hanns-Jörg Rohwedder PIRATEN, Drucksache 16/5540, Dauer-Lagerung von Uranoxid an der Urananreicherungsanlage Gronau (128k PDF - in German)

Shunting engine derailed when leaving Tricastin site with railcars transporting depleted U3O8

On Mar. 19, 2014, a shunting engine derailed on private track, when pulling 14 railcars carrying containers holding depleted U3O8 out of the Tricastin site. The 14 railcars remained on the track. The event was rated level 0 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES). (ASN Mar. 20, 2014)

Public comment invited on risk prevention plan for Areva's Comurhex Pierrelatte conversion plant and Usine W depleted uranium deconversion plant

Submit comments by April 11, 2014.
> View announcement and download related documents (in French)

Failure in brake system of railcar transporting depleted U3O8 from Tricastin (France) to the Netherlands

On Jan. 15, 2014, the brake system of a railcar carrying four containers of depleted uranium (U3O8) from Areva's Usine W in Tricastin to Covra's DU storage in Vlissingen developed a failure. The railcar had to stay for repairs at the Drancy-Le Bourget marshalling yard. The event was provisionally rated level 0 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES). (ASN Jan. 16, 2014)

Release of depleted U3O8 at Areva's Usine W deconversion plant

During pneumatic transport in a tube between two buildings, around 30 kilograms of depleted uranium oxide spread in non-closed formwork on Thursday (Oct. 31), partly falling on the ground. There was no contamination outside the plant perimeter. The event was rated level 1 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES). (ASN Oct. 31, 2013)

Railcar with depleted U3O8 destined for the Netherlands derailed in France

On Jan. 21, 2013, an axle of a railcar derailed in the shunting yard of Saint-Rambert d'Albon (Drôme). The railcar carried depleted uranium in the oxide form of U3O8. It was on the way from the Tricastin site (where the deconversion plant Usine W is located) to the Netherlands. The railcar and the integrity of the cargo were not damaged. (Libération Jan. 22. 2012)

Activists stop train carrying depleted uranium hexafluoride from Gronau (Germany) to France for deconversion

> View here

Protest against train carrying uranium oxide passing through station of Valence

On June 29, 2011, activists of the Sortir-du-nucléaire network protested the passing of a train carrying [presumably depleted] uranium oxide from Pierrelatte through the station of Valence. The dose rate at the train passing a platform of the station at 15:02 hrs at a speed of 50 km/h was measured at 2.5 µSv/h. At the station of Portes les Valence, where the train composed of 14 railcars came to a halt, 3.6 µSv/h were measured at a place, where background is 0.1 µSv/h. (France Bleu Drôme Ardèche June 29, 2011; Le Dauphiné Libéré June 30, 2011)

Train missed? Engine drivers on strike? Battery of Geiger counter down?
No problem with WISE Uranium Project's Virtual Geiger Counter!
  • Make sure, JavaScript is enabled, and "Number of Shield Layers" = 1, and "Volume Source" is selected in the Mode Section.
  • Then, click "Ex.6: 48Y Cylinder with UF6_nat" button in the Mode Section (the nearest approximation to the situation of interest).
  • In the Volume Source Material Composition section, change the material selection to "U3O8_dep+   (U3O8, depleted to 0.2% U-235, with short-lived progeny)".
  • In the Geometry Parameters section, change both "sa - Source surface area" and "sas - Shield surface area" to 10 m2, and enter the appropriate distance "b - Distance of receptor from shield rear surface [cm]".
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Hydrofluoric acid enters Tricastin site cooling water system

On Sep. 13, 2007, a significant amount of hydrofluoric acid entered the cooling water circuit at the deconversion plant for depleted uranium "Usine W". The cooling water system is serving the whole Tricastin site. Due to the cooling water becoming corrosive, several small leakages of the cooling water system were observed. After assuring the security of the plant and the employees, the cooling water system was emptied. The acidic water recovered was treated and released, leading to an exceedance of permitted short term release limits. Preliminary assessments suggest that the environmental impact of the event was not significant. (ASN Oct. 5, 2007)

 


Tails de-conversion: Russia   flag


Tails de-conversion plant W-ЭХЗ (W-ECP), Zelenogorsk, Krasnoyarskiy Kray, Russia

> See also Zelenogorsk enrichment plant

Rosatom starts construction of second unit for tails de-conversion plant in Zelenogorsk

JSC PA Electrochemical Plant started the active construction and installation phase in the building that will house the new depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUF6) defluorination unit - W2-ECP. The installation to be commissioned in 2023 will double the capacity of the plant to process DUF6 from 10,000 to 20,000 tons per year.
In November 2021, the first batch of the main equipment of the plant, which is manufactured at the enterprises of Orano Projets, is expected to arrive from France. From 2022 the installation of the process equipment will involve Orano Projets specialists. (ECP Apr. 7, 2021)

Zelenogorsk tails de-conversion plant processed 100,000 t of depleted UF6 since 2009

In May 2020, a landmark production achievement was recorded in the chemical workshop of JSC PO Electrochemical Plant - 100 thousand tons of depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUHF) has been processed since the start of industrial operation of the W-ECP plant. (ECP May 19, 2020)

Rosatom orders from Orano second unit for tails de-conversion plant in Zelenogorsk

Orano announces the signing of a contract worth 40 million euros with ECP, a subsidiary of the Russian group Rosatom, for the project of a depleted uranium plant to be located at the Zelenogorsk site in Russia.
Under the terms of the agreement, Orano will supply the equipment for the construction of a depleted uranium defluorination plant. The group will also provide its partner with technical assistance to install the equipment and start the plant.
In 2005, Orano had already signed a contract with Rosatom for the delivery of a first unit of this type in Russia. (Orano Dec. 10, 2019)

Zelenogorsk tails de-conversion plant processed more than 10,820 t depleted UF6 in 2017

In 2017, more than 10,820 tonnes of depleted uranium hexafluoride was processed at the "W-ECP" installation of the chemical shop of JSC "PO Electrochemical Plant". This is the maximum annual volume received from the date of putting the defluorization site into operation.
Since the launch of the W-ECP, 74,733 tonnes of depleted uranium hexafluoride have been processed. (ECP Jan. 15, 2018)

Capacity increase planned for Zelenogorsk tails de-conversion plant

Sergey Kiriyenko, director general of Russian state nuclear energy company Rosatom, visited the W-ECP deconversion (defluorination) plant at the site, which enables depleted uranium to be stored long-term as uranium oxide, with hydrogen fluoride being produced as a by-product. Kiriyenko said that the capacity of the W-ECP plant, commissioned in December 2009, would be increased from 5000 tonnes per year to 10,000 tonnes per year in 2011. (WNN June 7, 2011)

Russia's first depleted uranium hexafluoride deconversion plant starts operation

Russia's first tails de-conversion plant project W-ЭХЗ, based on French technology, was commissioned on December 18, 2009. (Atomenergoprom Dec. 18, 2009)

Russia's first depleted uranium hexafluoride deconversion plant to start operation in spring 2009

Electrochemical Plant (ECP) at Zelenogorsk (Krasnoyarskiy Kray, 100% subsidiary of Atomenergoprom ) is completing startup and adjusting works at the new plant for the processing of depleted uranium hexafluoride. The installation "W-ЭХЗ" (W-[EKhz]), based on the French technology of industrial scale deconversion is being constructed at the electrochemical plant. The design capacity of the plant is 10,000 tonnes of depleted uranium hexafluoride per year. Commissioning of the plant is planned at the end of the second quarter of 2009. (Atomenergoprom Feb. 4, 2009)

Russia plans to install two depleted uranium hexafluoride de-conversion plants

The Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) is implementing a number of projects to set up units that will process hexafluoride into chemically less dangerous compounds. In particular, at the Angarsk combine it is planned to install a Cedar unit by 2010-2011, which will use Russian processing technology, and a unit using French technology, which Rosatom acquired and plans to actively use, will be installed at another Rosatom enrichment company by 2009. (Interfax June 22, 2007)

Areva signs technology transfer agreement with Tenex for depleted uranium hexafluoride de-conversion

AREVA and the Russian company TENEX signed a technology transfer agreement worth 50 million Euro for the construction of a uranium defluorination plant in Siberia.
This transfer includes the design of the installation, equipment supply, supervision of erection and testing and training in operation and maintenance. AREVA will follow the contract to the end in 2009.
AREVA currently owns the only such plant in the world. Situated on the Pierrelatte site in the Drôme region of France, it has been transforming depleted uranium hexafluoride into U3O8, since 1984. (Areva May 2, 2005)


Tails de-conversion plant project W-EHF, Novouralsk, Russia

> See also: Novouralsk enrichment plant

Russia plans construction of further depleted uranium deconversion plant with French technology at Novouralsk

Russia's Fuel Company TVEL plans to build a new facility for the treatment of depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUHF). The Central Design and Technological Institute (TSPI) and the Ural Electrochemical Plant (UECP) in Novouralsk, Sverdlovsk Region) had signed an agreement for the development a project to create a W-EHF facility in Novouralsk for defluorination of DUHF.
As part of the study of the project, TSPI will prepare a declaration of intent to invest in construction, carry out a set of engineering surveys, and also prepare a feasibility study for the establishment of the W-EHF processing facility at the UECP site, similar to the technological process of the W-ECP unit already operating at the Electrochemical Plant (ECP) in Zelenogorsk, Krasnoyarsk Territory. The plant, commissioned in 2009, uses Areva NC technology and the pyrohydrolysis method to convert the depleted hex (UF6) into hydrofluoric acid and U3O8, which can be used to produce fuel for fast neutron reactors. (Nuclear Engineering International Aug. 13, 2020)


Tails de-conversion plant project KEDR, Angarsk, Russia

Pilot plant for de-conversion of depleted UF6 to be commissioned in Angarsk in 2012

Under the name of KEDR (КЕДР - cedar), Russia is developing a technology for the de-conversion of UF6 to UF4. A pilot plant is planned at the Angarsk Electrolysis Chemical Complex in the Irkutsk region. The hydrous hydrogen fluoride (HF) generated in the process will be completely recycled at the conversion plant of the Angarsk complex.
It is planned to deploy the pilot demonstration installation with the annual capacity of 2,000 tons of UF6 per year by 2012. After that, another installation of industrial scale with the capacity of 4,000 tons per year will be added to the pilot installation and the overall capacity will be increased to 6,000 tons. (Mikhail Aboimov at the 33rd World Nuclear Association Annual Symposium 2008)

Russia plans to install two depleted uranium hexafluoride de-conversion plants

The Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) is implementing a number of projects to set up units that will process hexafluoride into chemically less dangerous compounds. In particular, at the Angarsk combine it is planned to install a Cedar unit by 2010-2011, which will use Russian processing technology, and a unit using French technology, which Rosatom acquired and plans to actively use, will be installed at another Rosatom enrichment company by 2009. (Interfax June 22, 2007)


Tails de-conversion plant project with VNIIKhT technology, Russia

No decision yet on Russian domestic-technology tails de-conversion plant project

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 report by Gennady Sarychev of the All-Russian Research Institute of Chemical Technology (VNIIKhT) presented interest in the section that concerned the management of depleted uranium hexafluoride, or uranium tails. Saruchev presented a project for a plant for reprocessing uranium tails with a production rate of 30,000 tons a year. It's worth noting that experts estimate that Russia is already home to 900,000 tons of uranium tails.
No decision has been taken on whether to build the VNIIKhT uranium tail reprocessing plant, and judging by Kiriyenko's comments, it won't be taken any time soon. Answering a question about when the reprocessing would be launched at an industrial scale, Kiriyenko said: "We have not decided if we need to build such a large plant and limit with other suggestions fewer extravagances and with a lower production rate." (Aleksandr Nikitin, Bellona Jan. 25, 2011)

 


Tails un-deconversion (refluorination)


Tails un-deconversion: France   flag


Refluorination of depleted uranium oxide at Comurhex Malvési and Pierrelatte plants, France

> See also: Current Issues Comurhex conversion plants Malvési · Pierrelatte

Refluorination campaign of depleted uranium oxide terminated prematurely at Comurhex Malvési and Pierrelatte plants

Between April 2008 and January 2009, the Malvési plant converted 7,700 t U of depleted uranium oxide (U3O8) back to uranium tetrafluoride (UF4). The total amount of depleted uranium processed in this campaign was reduced from an initially expected 15,000 t U. The campaign ended on January 24, 2009, and the plant was switched back to processing of natural uranium. (Areva Comurhex: Bilan annuel de fonctionnement, CLIC du 21 avril 2009)

> See also: Recycled Nuclear Fuel Cost Calculator
(Select Process Parameters: Source Material / Udep / Udep supplied as U3O8, then click "Calculate")

Refluorination of depleted uranium oxide (!) ongoing at Comurhex Malvési and Pierrelatte plants

The Malvési conversion plant is currently processing depleted U3O8 (originating from the Bessines storage site) back to UF4. The orders received so far for such refluorination amount to 15,000 t, that is approximately equivalent to the annual production capacity of the plant. (Compte rendu Réunion du CLIC Narbonne-Malvési, Séance du 10 juillet 2008)
The stored material had been processed from depleted UF6 to U3O8 by Usine W to obtain a material suitable for safer long-term storage. The strong rise of the market price of uranium now obviously makes the re-enrichment of this depleted uranium economically feasible (see also Depleted Uranium Value Calculator). For re-enrichment, the depleted uranium first has to be converted back from the oxide form to the hexafluoride form. It is unclear, where the re-enrichment of the re-fluorinated DU is performed.

 


Storage of depleted uranium

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Disposal of depleted uranium

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