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LEXINGTON —The Department of Energy (DOE) has agreed to sell depleted uranium to GE-Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment, LLC (GLE) over a 40-year period which would be enriched at a proposed GLE state-of-the-art facility. The proposed new facility would use depleted uranium to produce natural uranium which is used for production of fuel for civil nuclear reactors. The facility would be built near DOE’s Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in western Kentucky. The construction and operation of the billion-dollar facility at Paducah could to bring approximately 800 to 1,200 jobs to the local community.
“This agreement furthers the Energy Department’s environmental cleanup mission while reducing cleanup costs, creating good local jobs, and supporting an economical enrichment enterprise for our energy needs,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “The sale contributes to two key Energy Department mission areas – to fulfill the federal government’s responsibility to manage the safe storage and disposal of nuclear materials and to enable nuclear power, America’s largest source of zero-carbon energy and an important enabler for reduced greenhouse gas emissions.”
GLE will finance, construct, own and operate the Paducah Laser Enrichment Facility (PLEF) adjacent to the Energy Department site. The facility will be a commercial uranium enrichment production facility under a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) license. DOE’s inventory of depleted uranium is safely stored in approximately 65,000 specialized storage cylinders at the Department’s Paducah and Portsmouth (Ohio) sites.
The Paducah plant was constructed in the 1950s to enrich uranium for national security applications, and later enriched uranium for commercial nuclear power generation. The Energy Department resumed control of the plant enrichment facilities in 2014 after the operator ceased gaseous-diffusion enrichment operations in 2013.
The Department’s Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office (PPPO) is currently deactivating the plant in preparation for decontamination and decommissioning, while it continues to complete environmental cleanup that began in the late 1980s. Cleanup includes groundwater remediation, inactive-facility demolition, conversion of depleted uranium to more stable forms for reuse or disposal, and other projects.
The mission of the Office of Environmental Management (EM) is to complete the safe cleanup of the environmental legacy brought about from five decades of nuclear weapons development and government-sponsored nuclear energy research.