USEC Inc. announced yesterday that they have entered into a multi-party arrangement with Energy Northwest, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) to extend uranium enrichment operations at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Paducah, Ky.
Under the agreements, DOE will provide high-assay depleted uranium hexafluoride, also known as tails, to Energy Northwest. Energy Northwest has contracted with USEC to re-enrich the tails into low enriched uranium. Energy Northwest will utilize a portion of the low enriched uranium for its Columbia Nuclear Generating Station and will sell the remainder of the U.S.-origin low enriched uranium to TVA for use in TVA’s reactors, including reactors that are used to produce tritium, a vital component for maintaining the U.S. nuclear deterrent. TVA will supply the power for the re-enrichment under an agreement to extend the existing USEC-TVA power contract.
"USEC is pleased to deliver on one of its stated objectives to extend Paducah operations on an economically sound basis," said John Welch, USEC president and CEO. "This agreement represents a multipoint win for government and industry that allows taxpayers to realize value by converting depleted uranium tails into an asset. At the same time it provides material critical to our national defense that can only come from U.S. technology."
The Department of Energy approved the transaction on May 15 following approvals by the USEC, TVA and Energy Northwest boards of directors. An independent review performed by Energy Resources International concluded the transaction is consistent with the DOE’s policy of minimal impact on the U.S. uranium market. Energy Northwest and TVA plan to use the enriched uranium in their reactors over many years, so as to not have a material adverse impact on the markets.
The agreement calls for DOE to provide Energy Northwest with approximately 9,000 metric tons of high-assay depleted uranium. USEC will enrich the tails to make about 480 metric tons of low enriched uranium. The work, combined with other ongoing USEC commercial obligations, will require approximately five million separative work units (SWU), a standard measure of uranium enrichment that represents the effort that is required to increase the concentration of the U-235 isotope in the uranium.
“This multi-faceted agreement creates advantages for all the parties involved,” said John M. A. Donelson, USEC vice president of marketing, sales, and power. “It preserves a vital domestic source of uranium enrichment for national security purposes and helps bridge the gap between Paducah’s production and the American Centrifuge technology. I am also pleased that we have extended our power supply agreement with TVA in a mutually beneficial manner.”
The agreement converts U.S. government depleted uranium into valuable nuclear fuel to power and light homes in the Pacific Northwest and the Tennessee Valley and delays costs to the U.S. government associated with maintaining the facility in safe shutdown if it were to cease enrichment operations at the end of this month. It continues USEC’s position as TVA’s largest industrial electricity customer while minimizing any impact on the domestic uranium market.
“This is a complex deal, and on behalf of the USEC employees whose jobs will be saved, I want to thank all the parties that came together to execute this business transaction that will serve our nation’s near-term national security needs,” said Steven R. Penrod, USEC vice president of enrichment operations. “We especially want to thank Senators McConnell and Paul and Representative Whitfield for their leadership and persistence bringing this to a successful conclusion, and in particular for their tireless efforts to protect the workers at the Paducah facility.”
The work will take about 12 months and supports a one-year extension of Paducah enrichment operations. The overall tails disposal liability of the U.S. government will be reduced as a result of the agreement and subsequent processing.
The Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, owned by DOE and leased and operated by USEC, is the only uranium enrichment facility capable of providing U.S.-origin uranium (enriched with U.S. technology) needed for the U.S. government’s tritium replenishment program, which supports maintaining the country’s nuclear deterrent. The Paducah plant is the largest uranium enrichment plant in the United States, accounting for nearly all current U.S. enriched uranium production, and has operated for almost 60 years.
USEC Inc., a global energy company, is a supplier of enriched uranium fuel and nuclear industry related services for commercial nuclear power plants.
Energy Northwest is a joint operating agency and municipal corporation of the State of Washington.
The Bonneville Power Administration is a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Energy.
The Tennessee Valley Authority is a federally owned corporation and a supplier of power to the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.
Another huge bailout for this alledgedly public corp! engineergreen.blogspot.com/.../usec-more-or-less-is-getting-government.html
I understand how 9,000 tes of DU is re-enriched to create 480 tes of LEU and that this is an asset. Presumably there is also 8,520 tes of very depleted Uranium which is a liability. How is this processed, stored and / or disposed ?