US Energy Department looks to private sector to help in nuclear waste conversion
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has asked industry to help in the conversion to a safer form of tons of nuclear material stored at US government facilities in Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee.
The DOE has asked private industry to propose strategies for transforming 700,000 metric tons of depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUF6) to a more environmentally benign state. The DOE is seeking ideas from industry to help it construct the conversion plants at Paducah, Kentucky and Portsmouth, Ohio, before the construction deadline of January 31, 2004.
DUF6 is a by-product of the enrichment of uranium from the gaseous diffusion process. The material was generated in vast quantities as a result of several decades of uranium enrichment operations for both commercial and defence purposes.
Since 1990, the DOE has conducted a program of cylinder inspections, re-coatings, and relocations to assure that DUF6 is safely stored until final disposition. While this material can continue to be contained for years, the advanced age of some of the cylinders has highlighted a potential environmental concern.
With the information received through the solicitation, DOE will be able to examine a range of possible solutions and then to proceed with the implementation of a procurement strategy.
The DOE’s objectives include: cylinder surveillance and maintenance; design, construction, operation and final decommissioning of conversion facilities; storage or use of conversion end products; and disposition of unused products such as uranium, fluorine compounds, and empty storage cylinders.
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