On March 11, 2008, Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman signed a policy statement1 on the management of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) excess uranium inventory (Policy Statement). This Policy Statement provides the framework within which DOE will make decisions concerning future use and disposition of this inventory. The Policy Statement commits DOE to manage those inventories in a manner that: (1) is consistent with all applicable legal requirements; (2) maintains sufficient uranium inventories at all times to meet the current and reasonably foreseeable needs of DOE missions; (3) undertakes transactions involving non-U.S. Government entities in a transparent and competitive manner, unless the Secretary of Energy determines in writing that overriding DOE mission needs dictate otherwise; and (4) is consistent with and supportive of the maintenance of a strong domestic nuclear industry.
DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy (NE), Office of Environmental Management (EM) and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) are the organizations within DOE responsible for these excess uranium inventories, and those organizations have coordinated in the development of this Excess Uranium Inventory Management Plan (Plan). The purpose of this Plan is to provide the general public and interested stakeholders more specific information and enhanced transparency with respect to DOE’s preliminary plans for its excess uranium transactions. This Plan identifies excess uranium inventories and identifies transactions that are planned or under consideration, or that may be considered by DOE in the future, for disposition of this excess uranium. The Plan also provides a strategy for the sale or other disposition of this excess uranium in a manner consistent with the principles set forth in the Policy Statement.
The objectives of the Plan are to seek to: (1) enhance the value and usefulness of DOE’s uranium by converting a portion of it into a low enriched uranium (LEU) inventory; (2) reduce DOE programmatic costs by decreasing uranium inventories; (3) meet key nonproliferation objectives; and (4) dispose of unmarketable material to facilitate the cleanup of DOE’s gaseous diffusion plants (GDPs). DOE also anticipates that it will undertake to optimize the use and disposition of its excess uranium assets in a manner that also minimizes any material adverse impacts on the domestic uranium mining, conversion and enrichment industries.
The Plan addresses the disposition of DOE’s excess uranium identified in this Plan through potential sales or transfers of uranium based on a combined annual quantity of no more than ten percent of the annual U.S. nuclear fuel requirements. The Department may exceed the ten percent in any given year for certain special purposes, such as initial core loads for new reactors. Uranium disposition decisions will be undertaken in a manner that is consistent with DOE’s mission needs and the principles set forth in the Policy Statement. DOE sales or transfers would be conducted consistent with applicable legal requirements and will result in the U.S. Government’s receipt of reasonable value.
The sales or transfers of the Department’s excess uranium inventory identified in this Plan that are currently ongoing and/or planned (items 1 and 2, below) or are under consideration or may be considered by DOE in the future (items 3, 4 and 5, below) to accomplish the Plan objectives include:
1. Down-blend 12.1 metric tons of uranium (MTU) of unallocated highly enriched uranium (HEU) to about 220 MTU of LEU of which about 170 MTU could be used for a general or special-purpose DOE LEU inventory.
2. Make available for sale up to 4,461 MTU of uranium of various enrichment levels that are stored at the Portsmouth, Ohio, Gaseous Diffusion Plant. This uranium is not within commercial specification (off-spec) or in the form of uranium hexafluoride (UF6).
3. Make available for sale up to 7,700 MTU of natural uranium (NU) (equivalent to 20 million pounds U3O8). This NU could be sold to licensed U.S. nuclear reactor operators for use in initial cores for new reactor build projects over a period of several years starting in 2010.
4. Make available as much as 4,647 MTU of NU to be enriched to approximately 500 MTU of LEU (at an enrichment of 4.95% 235U). This LEU could be included in a DOE LEU inventory.
5. DOE anticipates that it will engage in the sale of high-assay DUF6 or enter into a contract to re-enrich the DUF6 to natural uranium or LEU to realize the best value for the Government. DOE anticipates that it will also make available for sale any remaining NU. The sale of this material could reduce storage and security costs.
All of the above planned or potential actions are subject to compliance with appropriate DOE orders relating to program and project management, including all necessary senior management approvals. Further, any such actions are subject to completion of required National Environmental Policy Act analyses and compliance with applicable laws and/or regulations. In addition, as appropriate, cost-benefit and market analyses will be conducted prior to execution of each sale or transfer to support the various approaches for disposition of DOE’s excess uranium. As appropriate, the responsible program office would prepare analyses for processing, transfer, spot market and long-term sales, and cost avoidance. Consistent with the Policy Statement, DOE program offices will seek to obtain the best economic value for the U.S. Government in light of DOE’s identified objectives and needs.
While this Plan’s focus is a 10-year period, the disposition of DOE’s excess uranium inventories identified in this Plan is expected to take about 25 years. DOE expects to periodically update the Plan to reflect new and evolving information, policies and programs.