Uranium Conversion Facilities
Posted: Jan 11, 2017 10:21 am
The DOE in September 2016 awarded Mid-America Conversion Services a five-year contract to operate the facilities, located near Paducah, Kentucky and Piketon, Ohio, and to manage cylinder-storage yards at the DOE's Portsmouth and Paducah gaseous diffusion plant sites. The Portsmouth and Paducah gaseous diffusion enrichment plants ceased production operations in 2001 and 2013, respectively. The DOE has an inventory of about 700,000 tonnes of DUF6, a by-product from the gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment process. The DUF6 conversion plants convert the material into depleted uranium oxide for reuse or disposal and aqueous hydrofluoric acid for industrial use. Under the contract, Mid-America Conversion Services will also provide maintenance services for the conversion facilities and associated equipment, dispose of end products, and conduct surveillance and maintenance of the cylinder storage yards. The conversion plants were previously operated by BWXT Conversion Services.
Honeywell is temporarily to suspend uranium hexafluoride (UF6) production at its Metropolis, Illinois plant pending an improvement in business conditions, the company announced yesterday. The USA's only uranium conversion plant has been in a scheduled outage since October.
The company said its decision to suspend production was a result of "significant challenges" faced by the nuclear industry, including a situation with a current worldwide oversupply of UF6. In particular, it said, the decrease in demand from Japan and Germany following the Fukushima accident of 2011 has had a significant impact, and continues to create an oversupplied market for the uranium fuel cycle and a downward trend in uranium markets. The company cited analysis from Energy Resources International, which found that, since Fukushima, global demand for nuclear fuel has dropped 15%. It is not anticipated to rise before 2020.
"As a result of this business outlook, Honeywell plans to temporarily idle production of UF6 at its Metropolis site, while maintaining minimal operations to support a future restart as business conditions improve," a company spokesman said. "Honeywell intends to restart once business conditions improve and will keep the plant in a state of readiness and continue to support minimal on-site operations to ensure a successful restart. In the interim, the company has made alternative plans to meet all customer contractual commitments."
The plant has been in a routine annual outage since October. "This action means we will not restart production as originally scheduled," Honeywell told World Nuclear News.