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Uraninum-233 Inventory in Oak Ridge Lightened with First Shipment of Material from Building 3019

January 5, 2012 - 12:00pm


OAK RIDGE, Tenn. - The first shipment of inventory from Building 3019 at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory arrived at the Nevada Nuclear Security Site (NNSS) on December 22, marking the beginning of the end for the 50-year old Uranium-233 national storage facility.

This initial programmatic transfer included a valuable inventory of Zero Power Reactor (ZPR) plates, which will be used by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) for future criticality experimentation and training. The first shipment, consisting of six canisters containing small amounts of U-233 oxide, was executed safely and ahead of schedule by Isotek Systems, LLC, under contract to the U.S. Department of Energy. In total, 128 ZPR canisters will be transferred during the six to nine-month campaign.

“By making this first shipment before the end of calendar year 2011, the U-233 project team met the challenge to accelerate implementation of the alternative solution to U-233 disposition endorsed by the Department of Energy only eight months ago,” said John Krueger, federal project director for the U-233 project. “This accomplishment was enabled through close collaboration between the Environmental Management Program and NNSA to integrate preparations at the shipping and receiving facilities, and was facilitated by support from the Office of Science.”

The Oak Ridge material joins the inventory used by the National Criticality Experiments Research Center (NCERC) within the Device Assembly Facility at NNSS. The mission of the NCERC is to train and advance expertise within the nuclear materials community.  Specifically, personnel are rigorously trained in nuclear materials management and criticality safety. Experts from the fields of nuclear emergency response, nuclear nonproliferation (in accordance with domestic and international agreements), and nuclear criticality for Stockpile Stewardship will train at NCERC.

In addition to training, scientific experiments using the nuclear materials address challenges in criticality safety processes; criticality safety for storage, transportation, and disposition of nuclear materials; domestic and international safeguards technology; and safety guidelines for the nuclear power industry worldwide through research modeling and accident analysis.

“The NNSA training and experimentation mission is critically important to the nuclear safety community, and our material is a benefit to that mission,” Krueger said. “Transferring our excess material to this program provides a win-win solution.”

The U-233 Disposition Project is responsible for preparing 450 kilograms of fissile material stored in approximately 1,100 canisters for disposition. The transfer of the ZPR plates, and a future direct disposition campaign of a second inventory component, constitutes the first phase of the disposition program, which addresses approximately half of the inventory. A Phase 2 analysis is being finalized, and will set a path forward for eliminating the remaining inventory from Building 3019.