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Current Issues: Waste Management of Depleted Uranium

(last updated 25 Mar 2017)

Contents:

> see also:

 


Depleted Uranium: Waste or Resource?

Regulators' views are not exactly conclusive regarding this question:

 


Depleted Uranium Trade

> See extra page

 


Tails upgrading (re-enrichment)

See also: Uranium Enrichment Tails Upgrading


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 20 October 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

General

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

General

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]
20066,551
20076,498
20086,121
20095,198
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 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:
YearDestinationTotal
NovouralskSeverskAngarsk
1991 - 1995No exports
1996 502,395
1997 2,404,585
19981,893,100201,069133,9562,228,125
19991,574,520569,312284,7772,428,608
20001,515,323242,631251,2732,009,227
20011,406,640485,381200,7492,092,770
20021,866,23375,23950,1151,991,587
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 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:

 


Tails de-conversion (defluorination)


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

 


Capenhurst tails de-conversion plant project, United Kingdom

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

 

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.

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 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)

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)

 


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

 

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]".
  • Click "Calculate" button.

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 plant W-ЭХЗ, Zelenogorsk, Krasnoyarskiy Kray, Russia

> See also Zelenogorsk enrichment plant

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 KEDR, Angarsk, Russia

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

Under the name of KEDR (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)

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

> See extra page

 


Disposal of depleted uranium

> See extra page

 


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

 


U.S. DOE Depleted UF6 Management Program

> See extra page

 


Depleted uranium in Canada

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

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

> View here

 


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