Energy Department to Review Uranium Disposal Plan

The U.S. Energy Department plans to undertake a significant assessment next month of a $384 million plan for converting a supply of weapon-grade uranium 233 to lower-enriched material, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported (see GSN, June 24).

The plan would now require building a new facility for the material next door to its current storage site, a World War II-era facility that will also process the uranium at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, said Steve McCracken, federal environmental manager at the site.

The aging building would have needed large-scale renovations to accommodate extra radiation shielding and equipment necessary for drying the liquid uranium and packaging it for removal, according to McCracken.

The process would involve blending fissile material with depleted uranium received from the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. Roughly 900 cubic meters of radioactive waste would be transferred to Nevada for final deposition.

"I believe that what they've come up with now will certainly work, and it's simplified in several ways that I think are reducing the risk of something going wrong," McCracken said.

Next month's review might yield an updated budget estimate for the project, the News Sentinel reported. Work on blending down the uranium 233 is not slated to begin until 2012, but the Oak Ridge site could receive roughly 800 barrels of depleted uranium for the project by the end of 2009 (Frank Munger, Knoxville News Sentinel, Aug. 24).

August 25, 2009
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The U.S. Energy Department plans to undertake a significant assessment next month of a $384 million plan for converting a supply of weapon-grade uranium 233 to lower-enriched material, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported (see GSN, June 24).