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Milestones Keep DUF6 Plants Moving Ahead

May 30, 2013 - 12:00pm

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Cylinders containing depleted uranium hexafluoride.

Cylinders containing depleted uranium hexafluoride.

The depleted uranium hexafluoride conversion plant in Paducah.

The depleted uranium hexafluoride conversion plant in Paducah.

Workers inspect cylinders containing depleted uranium hexafluoride.

Workers inspect cylinders containing depleted uranium hexafluoride.

The operating room at a depleted uranium hexafluoride conversion plant.

The operating room at a depleted uranium hexafluoride conversion plant.

Cylinders containing depleted uranium hexafluoride.
The depleted uranium hexafluoride conversion plant in Paducah.
Workers inspect cylinders containing depleted uranium hexafluoride.
The operating room at a depleted uranium hexafluoride conversion plant.

PADUCAH, Ky. – The depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUF6) conversion plants in Portsmouth, Ohio, and Paducah, Ky., celebrated two significant milestones this year:

  • The plants shipped more than 2 million gallons of hydrofluoric acid since operations started; sales of the acid have returned revenues of more than $1 million in economic benefit to DOE and American taxpayers; and
  • Their fiscal year 2013 DUF6 production totaled more than 6,200 metric tons recently, exceeding the fiscal year 2012 total production of 6,171 metric tons.

The plants each employ about 200 people and have operating lives of 30 years. It is expected to take 18 to 30 years to convert the extensive inventory of DUF6 to a stable chemical form that is acceptable for transportation, beneficial reuse or disposal. The DUF6 was generated by six decades of uranium enrichment at the gaseous diffusion plants, which are located on the same sites as the conversion facilities. An estimated half million metric tons of DUF6 in cylinders await conversion at Paducah, and a quarter million metric tons of DUF6 in cylinders await conversion at Portsmouth.

The project is expected to reach full production capacity by the end of this fiscal year and operate at that level going forward. Fiscal year 2013 production will more than double fiscal year 2012 production.

EM contractor Babcock & Wilcox Conversion Services (BWCS) began operating the plants in March 2011. At the end of fiscal year 2012, all lines — three at Portsmouth and four at Paducah — demonstrated the ability to run simultaneously.

The project is working to ramp up production levels in measured steps, collect experiential data and test operating parameters to determine how operations can be sustained with all systems functioning routinely. The result of the testing, which will conclude at the end of this fiscal year, will determine the plant’s functional capacity.

Other successes include:

  • Winning the Kentucky Governor’s Safety and Health Award for 2.3 million work hours without a lost time accident or illness; the Million Hours Award; and Perfect Record Award from the National Safety Council;
  • A partnership agreement signed by the Portsmouth Paducah Project Office, BWCS and other entities that outlines the shared responsibility to operate and clean up the Portsmouth site safely and efficiently while protecting the public health and the environment;
  • Delivery of 1,061 cylinders to the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in support of the Energy Northwest DOE contract; and
  • Donation of computer equipment valued at $210,000 to local schools.

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